|Title||The Residue of a Deep Past: Struggle over cultural transmission in southwest China|
This thesis examines the cultural past of the nɑχɑ people living in Zheba, a rural mountainous area in southwest China. They perceive and live their cultural past through unreconciled fragments that are deeply embedded in their everyday lives. It is a deep past that continuously gives meanings to local people’s existences, even through times when wellbeing in life is most at stake.
I trace the nɑχɑ people’s struggles to reclaim the deep past across time through their multi-layered practices of place making, in the experience of the physical body, the domestic environment, the local landscape and beyond. These practices are crucial means to inhabit a world at the margins of the Chinese nation-state. It is a world in which decades of state sponsored violence followed by market changes in the late twentieth century have caused massive social suffering and cultural dislocation. These struggles thus take place against a decades-long background of huge shifts and ruptures in almost every aspect of everyday life. Whilst reshaping local ways of living, these radical transformations have at the same time generated nuanced ways for local people to live with unprecedented uncertainties and contingencies in their life courses. The struggle to balance the tenstion between change and continuity therefore involves unremitting efforts to transmit the fragmented deep past as imperative dimensions of people’s present and future.