Triste and Carol on the Journey to the Cool Mountains: Culture as Travel

in Inner Asia
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Abstract

This paper discusses Lin Yaohua's ethnography of the Yi people, made in the early 1940s. It points out that, in contrast to what the recent reflexive anthropologists criticise, Lin's writing talked more about his travelling to the Yi society than his dwelling therein and it highlighted the spectrum of the difference between Yi and Chinese peoples rather than metonymically froze the Yi as the inalienable Other. Drawing on the case, I argue that the anti-essentialist reflection on the traditional anthropology should not essentialise the latter: 1) Traditional anthropologists' strategy to localise their object of study doesn't inevitably lead to privileging the relation of dwelling over that of travel. Due to the difficulty and danger in entering the Yi area at that time, Lin localised the Yi by showing how hard to get there instead of how long to be there. 2) Writing ‘against culture’ has different implications in different circumstances. While it is intended to defrost the inferior Other frozen as culture in some places, it was in complicity with the Chinese state's power penetration in the Yi case.

Triste and Carol on the Journey to the Cool Mountains: Culture as Travel

in Inner Asia

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