Elazar, “Translating culture”

Elazar, Gideon.  2016. Translating culture: missionaries and linguists in contemporary Yunnan Province.  Asian Ethnicity.  Early online publication.

Abstract: In an attempt to emulate early modern missionaries to Yunnan who engaged in the invention of writing systems for various ethnic groups, contemporary evangelical missionaries in Yunnan have become heavily involved in the realm of linguistics, focused on the preservation of endangered languages. While such activity may potentially be perceived as a challenge to the state-Chinese linguistic hegemony, I argue that the presence of missionary linguists is acceptable to the Chinese authorities as it does not threaten the paramount position of Putonghua but rather serves to integrate minority people into the state system. In addition, based on interviews conducted with a missionary working to produce texts for Kunming’s Buoyi population in their language, I aim to demonstrate how missionary linguists attempt to remold local culture by attempting to reconstruct ethnic identity around a language core. The article is based on fieldwork conducted in Yunnan in 2009–2010 and 2012.

Tapp, “Religious Issues in China’s Rural Development: The Importance of Ethnic Minorities”

Tapp, Nicholas. 2014.  Religious Issues in China’s Rural Development: The Importance of Ethnic Minorities. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 15(5):433-452.

Abstract: This paper considers Chinese religion in relation to the changing nature of rural society and modernisation. Rural/urban distinctions are questioned, while the realities of religious differences between them are affirmed. Development is related to modernisation and multiple sources of Chinese modernity are considered. Religion is examined in terms of its tendencies towards diversification and capacity to embody visions of an alternative moral order. Some aspects of ethnic minority religion and its renewal are introduced, with reference to the ethnography of the Hmong, to show that minority religious issues can reflect broader religious issues in China. Geomancy and ancestral worship are shared by Hmong and Han Chinese. In conclusion it is argued that religion is increasingly presented as cultural in China through a process of ‘folklorisation’, which in the larger sense may not be problematic, yet important aspects of spirituality are lost which may find expression in mass Christian conversions.