Song and Silence

Ethnic Revival on China's Southwest Borders

Sara L. M. Davis

Columbia University Press

Song and Silence

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Pub Date: August 2005

ISBN: 9780231135276

216 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£24.00

Pub Date: August 2005

ISBN: 9780231135269

216 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£70.00

Pub Date: August 2005

ISBN: 9780231509428

216 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£24.00

Song and Silence

Ethnic Revival on China's Southwest Borders

Sara L. M. Davis

Columbia University Press

In the sunny, subtropical Sipsongpanna region, Tai Lues perform flirtatious, exoticized dances for an increasingly growing tourist trade. Endorsed by Chinese officials, who view the Tai Lues as a "model minority," these staged performances are part of a carefully sanctioned ethnic policy. However, behind the scenes and away from the eyes and ears of tourists and the Chinese government, a different kind of cultural resurgence is taking place.

In this vivid and beautifully told ethnography, Sara L. M. Davis reveals how Tai Lues are reviving and reinventing their culture in ways that contest the official state version. Carefully avoiding government repression, Tai Lues have rebuilt Buddhist temples and made them into vital centers for the Tai community to gather, discuss their future, and express discontent. Davis also describes the resurgence of the Tai language evident in a renewed interest in epic storytelling and traditional songs as well as the popularity of Tai pop music and computer publishing projects. Throughout her work, Davis weaves together the voices of monks, singers, and activists to examine issues of cultural authenticity, the status of ethnic minorities in China, and the growing cross-border contacts among Tai Lues in China, Thailand, Burma, and Laos.

An exemplary study of cross-border culture. Davis's original and deeply probing account of state-sponsored musical culture and of the musical practices that both transcend and subvert it deserves, like the music it depicts, to travel widely.

James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and AnthropologyYale University

Song and Silence is a delightful and surprising book, at once playful, scholarly and lyrical.

Jonathan Spence, Yale University

Song and Silence is a fascinating glimpse at a very interesting part of China that has increasingly become the focus of environmental and minority issues in the ever-evolving multi-ethnic state that is the PRC.Davis presents a well-researched and lucidly written examination of the complex inter-play between Han Chinese and Beijing and the increasingly vulnerable minority communities in the Himalayan foothills of Southern Yunnan whose historic isolation is now being irremediably breached by tourism, commerce and the media.

Orville Schell, University of California, Berkeley, author of Mandate of Heaven: A New Generation of Entrepreneurs, Dissidents, Technocrats, and Bohemians Grasp for Power in China

I recommend to everyone to read the book... It is indeed a vivid and beautifully told ethnography.

Emily Sarasvati Dharmapanna, Tai Culture

Touching and beautifully written... Sarah L. M. Davis has provided a path-breaking study of the logic of borders.

Alexander Horstmann, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia
List of Maps and Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction. The Writing on the Wall
1. Front Stage
2. Song and Silence
3. The Oral Poet Laureate
4. The Monks
Conclusion. Buddhas on the Borders
Notes
Suggested Readings
Index

About the Author

Sara L. M. Davis is a former researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.