Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Sutton, David


The past two decades have seen an ethno-religious revival in China, one which is spurred by the development of ethnic tourism with the introduction of the Chinese-state-market economy. The success of recreating, branding, and selling the Yi torch festival, as among the Liangshan Yi people, draws public attention. While some intellectuals are in favor of ethnic elites' effort in promoting cultural difference and authenticity in a festive context, others dispute the changing meanings that are brought about by this "invented tradition". My thesis is intended to bridge the disputants' concern of ritual knowledge and ritual reproduction with a lack of discussion of a stereotypically "primordial" form of the torch festival, dutzie, or "the sacrifice to the fire". I examine how cultural difference is reified and projected upon Morganian-Marxist scales of human societal development through the state-initiated projects of ethnic identification and "minority work" in the early years of nation-state building, and how subsequent radicalized state policies generate forced assimilation and give rise to the Yi's own appropriation of a state-designated category of ethnicity. By exploring both the retraditionalization of the Yi torch festival and the rural Yi's long-held practice of dutzie in the reform era, I investigate ritual changes and cultural continuity among the Liangshan Yi, and therefore highlight Yi identity formation in historical and social processes of producing ethnic dimension in China.




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