Pacifying the Souls in Cities’: Yi Migrations in Chengdu, China
Dr. Yun Tang
With the development and urbanization boom in China, the last three decades have seen a new trend of domestic migration towards urban cities. This new trend is characterized by the massive migration from the so-called ‘minorities’ regions. Lots of migrants come from communities with a social structure and cultural logic that vary greatly from that of the urbanites, a difference that has been the source of conflict and culture shock. At the same time, because of the household system (hukou), most migrations can’t get a household registration in the city, even though they are settled there. That makes them citizens without citizenship. This embarrassing situation brings more severe challenges to urban planers and managers, what’s more, it leads a migrant’s ongoing sense of misplacement and a lack of belongs.
Recent migration studies have contributed much on the motives, dynamics and the politics of migrant life, and pointed out that one cannot fully understand the relationship between migrants and urbanites without understanding the social-cultural logic of specific minority/ethnic group. However, many scholars and managers often undervalue the social-cultural logic as the obstacle to development, modernity and urbanization, instead of regarding it as the key to pursue an alternative modernity or the hybridity in urbanization.
Based on the ethnographic data, this talk will first illustrate the exorcism ritual carried out by Yi migrations (mainly habitat in Southwest Sichuan of Southwest China) in Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan) as a symbolic way to perceive and overcome all the difficulties in urban life; and then go further to analyse the social-cultural logic embedded in this ritual. In conclusion, this talk will rethink some popular trends in migration studies and propose a possible perspective to understand the urbanization.
Yun Tang is an anthropologist specializing in Southwest China. Her research interests lie in the topic on landscape, environment, disaster and folk religion. She was awarded her PhD degree in 2008, and is now an Associate Prof. in the Southwest University for Nationalities (Chengdu, China). She is also the special editor of anthropology of the Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities and an academic visitor of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnology in the University of Oxford (Oct. 2016 - Oct. 2017).
In her doctoral research (2005-2007), she explored the landscape, legends and historicity in a migration village in the Tibetan-Yi Corridor, Southwest China. She also carried out fieldwork in this area on many subsequent occasions, broadening her interests to environmental anthropology, disaster studies, migrations, religion, among others. One of her ongoing field researches (since 2010) focuses on the urbanization, migration and rural construction in Chengdu; and another one (since 2012) has been on sacred mountain worship, landscape, myth and religious practices in Kham. She leads or joins 12 projects, including leading the project of Local Experience and the Construction of Long-term Scientific Measure of Disaster Control in Southwest China (funded by the National Social Science Fund of China), and has joined the project of The Local in China’s Heritage: Theoretical and Methodological Reflections (funded by the Leverhulme Trust of UK).
She published two monographs (in Chinese): In the Name of Mountain: The Landscape, Rumor and Historicity in the Cultural Contact in Central Guizhou (2008) and Stone of Otherness: the Ritual, Landscape, and Perception of Disaster (2016), and 25 papers, including ‘Crossing Borders and Paradigms: the Intermediaries and the Reformation of Anthropology [in English]’ (in Cashier d’Extreme-Asie (23), 2014) and ‘Misunderstanding J. Frazer in “Frazer Lecture”: the “Regicide” in Divine Kingship and its Anthropological Debates’[in Chinese]. She also lectured 3 courses to graduate students: Theory and History of Anthropology, Anthropology on Southwest China, as well as Ethnography and Fieldwork.