“If You Come Often, We Are Like Relatives; If You Come Rarely, We Are Like Strangers”: Reformations of Akhaness in the Upper Mekong Region
AbstractIn my paper, I off er a brief analysis of just some of the ways in which certain members of the Akha transnational minority group are redefi ning Akhaness amidst the Upper Mekong Region’s ongoing transition from “battlefi elds to markets”. Drawing on 32 months of research in the region, I bring attention to the eff orts of certain Akha elite to promote a more formal pan-Akha sense of belonging of a profoundly religious nature. I highlight the complex ways in which certain local Akha actors are reshaping culture by way of multiple and shifting orientations to the past as well as the national and transnational in the contexts of social gatherings, communal rituals, linguistic productions, multimedia engagements, and cross-border travel. I argue that by virtue of these simultaneously multi-sited representations of Akhaness, certain Akha are composing their own theories of culture that in part challenge and incorporate dominant models of nationalism and globalization, all the while reproducing and claiming a distinctly Akha way of being in the world.
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