James Kennerly Humanities and Social Science
Ethnography of Material Culture and Commodity Exchange in Liangshan, China
Deng Xiaopings 1978 market reforms profoundly impacted the way Chinese people relate to their material surroundings. Some previously worthless objects (rare-earth metals, for example), gained newfound value as precious commodities. Other objects, before deeply cherished, became suddenly irrelevant through the process of commodification. In the frontier zones of the Chinese economysparsely-populated regions, ethnic minority areas, and border zonesthe transition of the social world of objects has been especially dramatic.I propose to study these dynamics from Liangshan Prefecture in Sichuan Provence, a rural, mountainous region on the southwest of the country, home to the Yi (Nuosu) ethnic minority. I will conduct a two-month ethnographic study in Liangshan, participating in everyday economic activities such as farming potatoes, butchering animals and manufacturing traditional lacquer-ware.My study will be part of a growing body of literature documenting Chinas historic economic transition towards what has been characterized as a modified, state-controlled form of capitalism. Through the investigation of the most mundane components of everyday life, I aim to contribute to a deeper understanding of this transitions global implications.