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Ref ID: 36601
Ref Type: Thesis-PhD
Authors: Fiskesjö, Nils Magnus Geir
Title: The fate of sacrifice and the making of Wa history
Date: 2000
Place of Publication: Chicago
Publisher: University of Chicago
Type: PhD
Abstract: This dissertation is concerned with Wa history and the conditions of its autonomy, and examines the Wa sacrificial rituals as the vehicles of this history. The Mon-Khmer speaking Wa inhabit a region between China and Southeast Asia, divided by the modern Burma-China border since the mid-20th century. The central Wa were formerly fiercely autonomous while the Wa peripheries were ruled indirectly, mostly by small Shan Buddhist kingdoms. The region's history is reviewed, to show how the central Wa came to be constituted as a particular kind of autonomous polities. The surrounding “civilized” polities, especially China, saw the central Wa as an external, “barbarian” zone. But the Wa were simultaneously deeply implicated in the same realms of socio-economic interconnections that sustain the Chinese and other states, mainly through trade in cash crops like opium but also through mining ventures and their consequences. However, in previous interpretive frameworks addressing the dichotomies of lowland civilizations and highland “primitive” zones characterizing the entire region, the historical agency of the people of the peripheries, and their attempts to marshal the resources of the land on their own terms, remains largely ignored. The historical forms of violence for which the Wa people were known in the past, the sacrificial rituals of headhunting, should be interpreted not as the inevitable outcome of fateful processes, but as the vehicles of the making of Wa history as culturally constituted action. The text draws on ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological data from investigations in Wa areas in China during 1996-1998 of the fortified settlements and other aspects of the militarized social landscape of the formerly autonomous central areas before the 1950s, as well as their more recent transformation into a peasant periphery.
Date Created: 9/16/2002
Department: Department of Anthropology