Living with the State: Multiplying Ethnic Yao Narratives in Jinxiu

  • Chih-yu Shih


The relationship between the state and the ethnic minority is an interdisciplinary subject of political science and anthropology. For political science, which is the science of state, issues involving the ethnic minority are primarily concerned with participation and social welfare. This pertains to a top-down perspective; the political science literature is generally uninterested in how ethnic minorities view the state,1 or the bottom-up perspective. On the other hand, anthropologists who often stay empathetic and close to an ethnic community are typically inattentive to the issues of the state. As a result, both disciplines leave out from their respective research agenda subjects such as how and what ethnicity means to the state and how and what the state means to each ethnic community. In practice, the tasks of identifying, mobilizing, and governing of ethnic communities belong to the state. It is assumed that the state has the knowledge regarding these ethnic practices. Ironically, however, the state rarely develops an effective mechanism to communicate with its ethnic citizens, and is therefore unable to appreciate the responses each ethnic community has to the intervention of the state in its daily life. In short, neither political scientists nor anthropologists have developed any systematic way of looking at the state from the minority points of view.


Ethnic Identity Ethnic Community Multiple Identity Mountain Villager Ancestor Worship 
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  1. 1.
    For criticism of political science research in this regard, see David Campbell, National Deconstruction: Violence, Identity and Justice in Bosnia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998);Google Scholar
  2. Yosef Lapid and Fridrich Kratochwill (eds.), The Return of Culture and Identity in IR Theory (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1996);Google Scholar
  3. Yosef Lapid, “Theorizing the ‘national’ in International Relations Theory,” in International Organizations, (New York: HaperCollins, 1996), 20–31.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Ralph Litzinger, Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of Belonging (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Pan Nianying, Hand Notes on Helping the Poor [fu pin shou ji] (Shanghai: Shanghai literature and Art Press, 1997).Google Scholar

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© Chih-yu Shih 2007

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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