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The Art of (not) Looking Back: Reconsidering Lisu Migrations and “Zomia”

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the mobility and migrations of the Lisu, an ethnicity in Southeast Asia who may or may not constitute a single social group with a single set of "origins". It traces back the movements that scattered Lisu households and villages over a broad area from Yunnan in the east to India in the west, from northern Myanmar to Thailand and Laos. The chapter represents the first attempt to draw together ethnographic fieldwork with primary and secondary sources in Chinese, English, and French to reconstruct the history of Lisu migrations from their known point of origin in Yunnan to the present day. In so doing, the author places migrations at the heart of "Zomian" cultural dynamics, reconsidering movement, identity, and power in the highlands of Southeast Asia from the perspective of "a people who do not look back".

Keywords: Lisu migrations; Zomian cultural dynamics



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