Chapter 3: Taking the Stage: Rural Kam Women and Contemporary Kam ‘Cultural Development’
1 Catherine Ingram, with Wu Jialing, Wu Meifang, Wu Meixiang, Wu Pinxian and Wu Xuegui (Kam singers and song experts)2 INTRODUCTION Today, in many of the rural communities of China’s 55 officially recognized shaoshu minzu (‘minorities’),3 major social and economic changes have seen women assume key roles in the transmission of local culture. Concurrently, many rural minority women are increasingly required to take a prominent role in state-sponsored cultural projects that are promoted as ‘cultural development’ – projects that are now one of the major influences on the cultures of China’s minority peoples.4 How rural minority women negotiate these new roles and, in certain respects, responsibilities, is crucial to the present and future socio-cultural situation of their communities, yet has previously received only incidental scholarly attention.5 This chapter directly addresses this lacuna by examining the views and experiences of Kam (in Chinese, Dong) women living in rural areas of south-eastern Guizhou Province – particularly in Sheeam, one Southern Kam region (see Figure 3.1).6 Within the last decade, so-called ‘cultural development’ (hereafter given without quotation marks) has intensified markedly, and has focused upon staged Kam song performances featuring rural Kam women’s singing. This development process has been stimulated and directed by various factors, including increased state promotion of Kam culture and of the economic benefits of cultural tourism,7 the associated recognition of several Kam musical traditions as National-Level Intangible Cultural Heritage (one was also inscribed on UNESCO’s 2009 Representative List),8 and the ongoing political importance of controlling the...
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