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Writing to Cultivate Souls, Reading to Craft Bodies: Literacy and Lineage in a Native Chiefly House during the Qing with Erik Mueggler
Writing to Cultivate Souls, Reading to Craft Bodies: Literacy and Lineage in a Native Chiefly House during the Qing with Erik Mueggler
WhenFriday, Apr. 26, 2019, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
WhereEast Asia Library
Campus roomSeminar Room (2M)
Event typesAcademics, Lectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsChina Studies Program, Seattle Art Museum
Description

Erik Mueggler traces the articulation of written signs with living and dead bodies in a chiefly lineage in Qing China. The Yi (or Nasu) chiefly heir Nuo Zhenxing used a Chinese-language diary to follow flows of food and words through his hereditary house during a long legal battle with his adoptive mother. His diary was stenographic and divinatory, intended to trace the house’s complex circulatory system and reveal whether it would absorb him or kill him. In a separate scriptive regime, Nasu-language texts were used to fashion ancestral bodies during funeral ceremonies. Nasu writing was inscribed onto a ritual field as composite spirit/human bodies, shaping the field as both textual and material. While these two regimes are kept strictly separate in the archive, echoes of each can be discerned in the other. Tracing relays among separate textual regimes operating in the same social field helps reveal forms of social relation obscured by the archive.

Erik Mueggler is Professor of Anthropology at University of Michigan. His work, located mainly in minority communities in Southwest China, is about ritual and politics, histories of natural history, histories of death, and anthropologies of literacy. His books include The Age of Wild Ghosts: Memory, Violence and Place in Southwest China (2001), The Paper road: Archive and Experience in the Botanical Exploration of West China and Tibet (2011) and Songs for Dead Parents: Corpse, Text and World in Southwest China (2017)

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