From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Asian Ethnicities (14)—Dynamics of Ethnicity (k)

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series Asian Ethnicities
A year ago on Round and Square (29 July 2012)—The Accidental Ethnographer: Pilgrimage
Two years ago on Round and Square (29 July 2011)—Longevity Mountain: Furnace Talk
[a] Spectacle RF
In the next dozen entries, I will be posting an initial draft of a book introduction on Asian ethnic groups. It is meant for the blog, and does not represent anything like what will eventually be published. I do so especially because this represents a compilation of my thoughts after a full year of intensive teaching and research on Asian ethnicity. The introduction to this series shows some of my thoughts from last year—before I taught my advanced seminar by the same title as this series. This is something of a culmination of the process, even though I will be now moving in many new directions in the teaching and study of Asian ethnic groups.

Click below for other items in this essay:
Dynamics 1          Dynamics 2          Dynamics 3          Dynamics 4          Dynamics 5 
Dynamics 6          Dynamics 7          Dynamics 8          Dynamics 9          Dynamics 10
Ethnicity in Motion
While doing fieldwork in eastern China in 2002, I had a conversation with a middle-aged gentleman, and I will never forget it. I “congratulated” him on the news (announced a year earlier) that China had been awarded the Olympic Games for 2008. He accepted my remarks warmly, but added an addendum that remained strong—especially after being able to see his words “come true” in the following years. “The Olympic Games will be wonderful,” he said. “They are a distinctive opportunity to show China—how we have changed, what we have become—to the world.” I had heard versions of that answer before, and nodded my head in agreement, not expecting a much more powerful follow-up. “No, the Olympic Games will be big, but the truly dynamic change will come from the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.

I was stunned. How could a World’s Fair (significant as those were in the now-distant past) compare even remotely to the Olympic Games? All of the world would be watching. I asked him this very question.

[c] Coherent RF
“Easy,” he replied. The Olympic Games are about showing our newfound greatness to the world. The Expo will attract millions of Chinese visitors, and show the greatness of China…to China."

It took several years for me to understand fully the meaning of that statement. True, the Olympic Games were a stunning success, and allowed the Chinese state to show itself in spectacular fashion to a wider world. As my friend predicted, however, it was the Shanghai Expo in 2010 that captivated the domestic tourism industry. It broke all records, and helped to cement a narrative that (echoing the Olympic Opening Ceremonies) celebrated the ethnic diversity and cultural cohesion of the People’s Republic of China. On top of that, it told a tale of “coherent diversity,” as I like to think of the state’s message, in a complex world. Chinese tourists from all provinces, and all of the fifty-six ethnic groups, flowed to the Expo.

It is the purpose of this volume to show the details of those groups, on the one hand, and the great “interstices” (caverns of contestation and disagreement) at the same time. Even more, its purpose is to show the detail and dynamism of an Asian world that, while often dominated by the Chinese state, goes far beyond it in society, culture, economy, and, of course, history. This book brings together the vast sweep of Asian ethnic groups from central and northern Asia, through China, and on to nations much farther south and east.

Through it all, it blends the details with larger patterns of change.

Click below for other items in this essay:
Dynamics 1          Dynamics 2          Dynamics 3          Dynamics 4          Dynamics 5 
Dynamics 6          Dynamics 7          Dynamics 8          Dynamics 9          Dynamics 10
[e] Change RF

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