Abstract: Historically autonomous and fiercely egalitarian, yet far from isolated and extensively implicated in regional, and global, economies of trade and exchange, the Wa people on the Burma–China frontier stand out in the history of marginal peoples refusing to be marginalized. This article addresses the place of mining in the political history of the Wa area – a key part of what has recently been called the Zomia region, but one which differs from many other cases because of its activist statelessness. The history of the Wa areas is outlined and discussed with reference to larger debates over agency, autonomy, and state formation, with particular attention to mining resources and their relation to Wa politics before the mid twentieth century.
Abstract: Selfother distinctions are always made in a dynamic process of incorporation and exclusion, based on locally produced sociocultural rules constantly redefined in practice. In the present paper, I discuss the formation of Wa identity and xenology through rice beer drinking, a key arena of social interaction governed by intricate rules. The shared drinking of home-made beer not only shapes Wa sociality and invites the ‘participant intoxication’ of anyone who would submit to Wa mores (including foreign ethnographers), but also defines as outsiders those who would refuse to share, including those appalled by the beer’s uncleanliness, real or imagined. Rice beer drinking is briefly compared with betel chewing and smoking tobacco, and is also contrasted with commodified Chinese liquor in terms of their use and effect in social interaction and ethnic distinction in the Wa lands at the ChinaBurma frontier, with special attention to the problem of Wa autonomy.
Abstract: This paper examines the terms ‘Raw’ and ‘Cooked’ (sheng and shu) as applied to China’s own Barbarians. First, a review of the more general Chinese conceptions of ‘barbarians’ suggests that the very idea of the civilisation of China (Zhongguo, the ‘central state’) necessarily and continuously required ‘the barbarians’ on the periphery as its corollary. Next, five cases from late imperial Chinese ‘inner frontiers’ (in Hainan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Taiwan and Hunan) are discussed as actual examples of how certain ‘barbarians’ were divided into the ‘Raw’ and the ‘Cooked’. The vast expansion of the imperial state brought about the incorporation of large numbers of former outsiders, but in certain cases people were split into those set to become regular (e.g. liang, ‘good’) Chinese subjects, and those still beyond the pale of civilisation (e.g. the ‘Raw’). Noting how the ‘Raw’ were persistently designated ‘Raw’ even as they, too, actually became deeply implicated in the civilised realm, the paper suggests that these late imperial ‘last barbarians’ were made to persist because of their precious position at the very foundation of imperial sovereignty.