Life in Lijiang: Pitzer College Anthropology Professor Emily Chao Publishes Book about Contemporary China


Claremont, Calif. (December 14, 2012) — Pitzer College Professor of Anthropology Emily Chao has authored Lijiang Stories: Shamans, Taxi Drivers, Runaway Brides, and Entrepreneurs in Reform Era China, published by the University of Washington Press.

Lijiang Stories offers a vivid account of gender, ethnicity and the politics of historical representation among the Naxi, a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group, in southwest China. Drawing on stories about taxi drivers, reluctant brides, dog meat and shamanism, Chao illustrates how biopolitics and the essentialization of difference shape the way in which rural and urban residents represent, interpret and critique a new moral economy dominated by the market and neoliberal logic. This rich ethnography highlights the cultural consequences of China’s emergence as a global giant.

“China’s economic rise has not unilaterally improved the lives of all Chinese citizens, particularly rural residents, women and minorities,” Chao said. “Lijiang Stories provides glimpses of the complexities and contradictions faced by rural and urban Lijiang residents as they negotiate life in a rapidly changing China.”

Stevan Harrell, author of Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China, describes Chao’s tales as well-written page-turners that convey sophisticated theoretical points. Sara Davis, author of Song and Silence: Ethnic Revival on China’s Southwest Borders, says that Chao “has a delightful authorial voice, deep experience in the region and a good eye for the humorous incident or important minor detail.”

Chao initially became interested in Lijiang after reading about the historical incidence of love suicide among Naxi women dating from imperial expansion during the Qing dynasty.

Lijiang Stories: Shamans, Taxi Drivers, Runaway Brides, and Entrepreneurs in Reform Era China is available online and through major book retailers.

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University of Washington Press

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