'Song and Silence: Ethnic
Revival on China's Southwest Borders'
A talk by Sara L.
study of cross-border culture. Davis's original and deeply probing
account of state-sponsored musical culture and of the musical practices
that both transcend and subvert it deserves, like the music it depicts,
to travel widely."
James C. Scott, Sterling
Professor of Political Science and Anthropology Yale University
"Song and Silence is a fascinating glimpse at a very interesting part
of China that has increasingly become the focus of environmental and
minority issues in the ever-evolving multi-ethnic state that is the
PRC. Davis presents a well-researched and lucidly written examination
of the complex inter-play between Han Chinese and Beijing and the
increasingly vulnerable minority communities in the Himalayan foothills
of Southern Yunnan whose historic isolation is now being irremediably
breached by tourism, commerce and the media."
Orville Schell, University of California, Berkeley
Sara L.M. Davis earned her Ph.D. at
University of Pennsylvania. She was the China researcher at Human
Rights Watch for three years. Davis has taught and held postdoctoral
fellowships at Yale University and UCLA. She has written for several
publications including The Wall Street Journal, International
Herald Tribune, and Modern China.
Davis currently lives in New York.
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
In this vivid and beautifully
told ethnography, Sara L. M. Davis reveals 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.
Throughout her work, Davis 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.
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