AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 60

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Session 60: Revival of Minority Cultures

"Mountain Fissures: An Historical Ethnography of Agnatic Authority & Sacramental Charisma in the Mountains of Western Fujian"
Drew Hopkins, Columbia University, USA

This talk concerns the historical anthropology of rural areas of the late-imperial prefecture of Tingzhou, in the mountains of Western Fujian province, China. It will address the socio-economic and cultural development of the region, from the Tang through the present-day, examining the cultural institutions and practices that were forged in the Han settlement of remote, mountainous areas long held by indigenous, non-Han minorities. It addresses the strategic mobilization of orthodox forms of kinship organization and sacramental alliance in the establishment, first of Han hegemony in the region and, second, in the consolidation of authority by dominant agnatic descent groups. Finally, it addressed the enduring salience of these agnatic institutions throughout 150 years of revolutionary change. Far from collapsing in the period of Maoist rule, the corporate agnatic lineages that traditionally held local power in the region were reinforced by the policies of the Maoist period, endowing them with a degree of authority unprecedented in late-imperial times.

Kakure Kirishitan in the New Urbanized Context of Kurosaki
Roger Vanzila Munsi, Nanzan University, Japan

This paper explores one key site for the defining features that enabled the Kakure Kirishitan to retain their original identity and continued existence, particularly in the new urbanized context of Kurosaki, the outskirts of Nagasaki city. Using ethnographic techniques, the results suggest that the present-day descendents of Kakure Kirishitan in the newly Kurosaki district of Nagasaki city shows that they attempt to copy with ongoing social, environmental and economic change by formulating new blueprints for the ideal of their religious and community identity. On current evidence, the specific characteristics of Karematsu Shrine Festival were alleged as the most visible nexus between religious expressions and social contexts. The study concluded that a difference should be made between the decline of the Kakure Kirishitan’s organized groups and the continuity of the Kakure Kirishitan faith. It is not to be expected that the Kakure Kirishitan faith we know today will come to halt in the near or medium-term future. On the contrary it will be worthwhile to see for a couple of decades the continuation of Kakure Kirishitan faith ‘focused on individual aspect’ rather the Kakure Kirishitan faith ‘focused on community aspect’. Further task would be to explore aspects of Karematsu Shrine and its annual festival in order to identify factors important in the psycho-religious and sociological experience of Kakure Kirishitan in the region.

The Ainu Folk Tales as a Critical Device of Historiography
Minako Sakata, University of Tokyo, Japan

The Ainu, indigenous people in northern Japan, used to have their own language, the Ainu language, and a rich culture of oral tradition. Their huge repertoires of oral literature, however, have not been appropriately evaluated as a material for academic consideration, whether literary or historically. In this presentation I demonstrate how Ainu oral literature can be read as a device to review Japanese historical discourse about the Ainu. Ainu oral literature had been recorded since the early 20th century by Japanese scholars or Ainu practitioners. Although the date of textualization was relatively recent, Ainu oral literature refers to settings before the Meiji period when they became a Japanese citizen, and the Ainu practitioners and audiences regarded it as a tool to conjure “the historical past”. However, what is most remarkable is not whether it refers to historical fact or not, but what it teaches us about the epistemology and logic of Ainu folk tales themselves. Historiography has focused on the political or economic dynamics between the Ainu and the Wajin, or ethnic Japanese. However, Ainu folk tales think about how people from different cultures co-operate with each other, keeping appropriate inner balance of a ‘survival unit’: the world, consisting of Gods, the Ainu and the Wajin. This asymmetry of emphasis in narrative composition refers to a critical point of difference of attitudes between the Ainu and the Wajin toward historical recognition. To notice this discrepancy demands us to alter our view about the Ainu and their process of becoming ‘Japanese’.

The Hui Muslims in Today’s China: Between Assimilation, Integration, and Exclusion
Frauke Drewes, University of Muenster, Germany

Within the PRC, the Hui are seen as the Chinese Muslims. Contrary to their Turkic religious brothers, they speak the language of the local majority (usually Chinese) and in most cases their appearance does not differ from that of Han Chinese people. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, however, various trends have been recognized regarding the (dis-)integration of Hui. Especially amongst young people two opposite trends have been observed: some follow the Communists’ view that religion and tradition are not modern and so endeavour to become as “Han” as possible. Others took the opportunity- especially since the reform opening of the 1980s – to revive their religion and ethnic-specific customs and through such measures “being Hui” became fashionable. Which one of the two trends young people choose to follow greatly depends on their geographical location in China, as well as their social and family backgrounds. But also the popular and governmental view of the Hui differs, depending on geographical locations. Whereas in some places Islam is supported by the government in order to present its religious tolerance to foreign Muslim investors and other guests, in other places it is restricted. Whereas in some places the Hui are tolerated as part of society, in others they are seen as strangers. Based on Chinese original sources such as newspaper and magazine articles, statistics and interviews, this paper will demonstrate the different realities of contemporary Hui in different political, geographical, and social contexts within the PRC in relation to their self-identity as Hui.

Contemporary Religious Art of Outer Mongolia: Survival and Regeneration
Ann W. Norton, Providence College, USA

The rich history of Mongolian Buddhism nearly ended during the communist purges and persecutions of the 20th century. From 1928 to 1989 over 100,000 lamas were killed or sent to labor camps, hundreds of temples, along with their artifacts, were destroyed, and people were forbidden to practice Buddhism. Over 700 monasteries were closed and burned. Then, as the Soviet Union collapsed and Mongolia held its own pro-democracy demonstrations, the way was opened to again allow freedom of religion. Now in Outer Mongolia there is a lively regeneration of Buddhism, aided by visiting monks and nuns from Tibet, Nepal, India and the West. Temples and monasteries are being rebuilt, 'hidden' artworks are being dug up, and artists, both lay and monastic, are again creating. This presentation includes material collected and photographs taken during a research trip to Outer Mongolia in the summer of 2010. The re-connection with Tibetan art is evident in many contemporary works. At the same time, traditional aspects of shamanism and nature worship, as well as near-abstract 'Western' styles can be seen. This combination of traditional and imported elements contribute to a hybridization of both the arts and religious practices in contemporary Outer Mongolia. By the late 20th century, Mongolian Buddhists themselves seemed near the edge of extinction. Now it is clear that an inner spirit survived and has been rekindled. It is vital that we observe and analyze Outer Mongolia's religious art during this rapidly changing period.