Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 2010 vol. 11 pp. 111-127
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.