“Little Tibet” With “Little Mecca”: Religion, Ethnicity And Social Change On The Sino-Tibetan Borderland (China)
This dissertation examines the complexity of religious and ethnic diversity in the context of contemporary China. Based on my two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Taktsang Lhamo (Ch: Langmusi) of southern Gansu province, I investigate the ethnic and religious revival since the Chinese political relaxation in the 1980s in two local communities: one is the salient Tibetan Buddhist revival represented by the rebuilding of the local monastery, the revitalization of religious and folk ceremonies, and the rising attention from the tourists; the other is the almost invisible Islamic revival among the Chinese Muslims (Hui) who have inhabited in this Tibetan land for centuries. Distinctive when compared to their Tibetan counterpart, the most noticeable phenomenon in the local Hui revival is a revitalization of Hui entrepreneurship, which is represented by the dominant Hui restaurants, shops, hotels, and bus lines. As I show in my dissertation both the Tibetan monastic ceremonies and Hui entrepreneurship are the intrinsic part of local ethnoreligious revival. Moreover these seemingly unrelated phenomena are in fact closely related and reflect the modern Chinese nation-building as well as the influences from an increasingly globalized and government directed Chinese market. The Chinese policy change since the 1980s and the transition to the marketoriented economy have made the local ethnic and religious revival possible but also more complicated. Against the backdrop of the transition from a former frontier of two empires to the modern nation state, I show how various contemporary events and historic memories have been uniquely experienced by two local ethnic communities. I then further analyze the political economic basis of this ethnoreligious revival, which demonstrates the dynamics of religion and ethnicity in the cultural complexity of a multi-ethnic nation-state on the one hand, and the role of nation-state and the global consumerism as a new form of civilizing agent and governmentality on the other. Finally, I argue that identifying the process of social production in complex and conflicting phenomena like this unsettles those conventionally defined ethnic, religious, and national boundaries through which I explore the conceptual limits of such theoretical concepts as modernity, post/colonialism and trans/nationalism.
Per the request of the author, the embargo for this dissertation has been extended an additional 5 years.
dissertation or thesis