Participant Intoxication and Self–Other Dynamics in the Wa context

Magnus Fiskesjö
Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 2010 vol. 11 pp. 111-127
DOI: 10.1080/14442211003720588
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.