Special China Lecture – Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China’s Southwest Borders

Special China Lecture -- Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China's Southwest Borders

Sara L.M. Davis - Author and Former Postdoctoral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies, Yale University

Friday, October 7, 2005 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Room 203, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 6511

In the sunny, subtropical Sipsongpanna region, Tai Lues perform flirtatious, exoticized dances for an increasingly growing tourist trade. Endorsed by Chinese officials, who view the Tai Lues as a “model minority”, these staged performances are part of a carefully sanctioned ethnic policy. However, behind the scenes and away from the eyes and ears of tourists and the Chinese government, a different kind of cultural resurgence is taking place. Sara Davis’ ethnography explores how Tai Lues are reviving and reinventing their culture in ways that contest the official state version. Carefully avoiding government repression, Tai Lues have rebuilt Buddhist temples and made them into vital centers for the Tai community to gather, discuss their future, and express discontent. Davis also describes the resurgence of the Tai language evident in a renewed interest in epic storytelling and traditional songs as well as the popularity of Tai pop music and computer publishing projects. The book weaves together the voices of monks, singers, and activists to examine issues of cultural authenticity, the status of ethnic minorities in China, and the growing cross-border contacts among Tai Lues in China, Thailand, Burma, and Laos. Please note there is also a special book signing event sponsored by Lulu’s Cafe at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 8, 2005 at 49 Cottage Street in New Haven.