Threads unwoven : politics, indigenous knowledge, ethnic identity, and community based cultural-ecological conservation in ethnic rural regions, southwest China – a case study of Tujia brocade

by Yong Zhang

Institution: University of Hawaii – Manoa
Year: 2015
Keywords: indigenous cloth; indigenous knowledge; national political-economic impact
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2135510
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/100553


Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014. By using Tujia brocade, a piece of indigenous cloth woven by ethnic Tujia girls in southwestern China, as a metaphor, this dissertation examines the correlation between Tujia indigenous knowledge and national political-economic impact. It accentuates the significance of community-based indigenous knowledge preservation with support of new-born indigenous farmer cooperatives as it relates to livelihood improvement in ethnic minority communities. I put forward the proposition that it is necessary to rethink the controversial development model in ethnic minority regions within the context of a national political-economic misappropriation. Modernized economic integration, specifically GDP-driven industrialization and rural urbanization, has caused changes in community structure, social-cultural life, and the ethnic identities of Tujia and many other ethnic groups in southwestern China. This ultimately undermines natural resources, customary materials and tribal beliefs in ethnic rural regions. The changing situation of this Tujia brocade, from a life-time practice into being forsaken, reveals an underprivileged present as well as an unclear future for these ethnic peoples and their cultures. While examining the Tujia brocade and Tujia society from a cultural, anthropological and political perspective, the proposition of this thesis may be quite divergent from many contemporary attitudes focusing on modernization. In contrast, with a concern for indigenous knowledge, especially its survival, continuation and sustainability, the purpose of this project was an attempt to view approaches to ethnic rural livelihood improvement from the standpoint of community based, native, social-cultural preservation.