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An island of the floating world: kinship, rituals, and political-economic change in post-cold war Jinmen

Chiu, Hsiao-Chiao (2017) An island of the floating world: kinship, rituals, and political-economic change in post-cold war Jinmen. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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During the Cold War era, the island of Jinmen was the frontline of the Republic of China in its military standoff with the People’s Republic of China. From 1949 to 1992, the life of the islanders was profoundly disturbed and altered by wars and militarization generated by the bipolar politics. Despite this, the localized patrilineages dating from imperial times remain central to the organization of local social life. Grounded on fifteen months of fieldwork in a patrilineal community, this dissertation demonstrates the significant roles of kinship and kinship-related rituals in sustaining the local social fabric through turmoil and uncertainty during and after the Cold War. The first part of this thesis focuses on lineage ancestral sacrifices, domestic worship, and funerals. The continuation of rituals that sustain patterns of interpersonal relationships is argued to constitute a means of negating the destruction of social order experienced in the period of military control and conflict. Yet, against the background of these ritual continuities, the thesis also examines how they have been adapted to shifting circumstances, such as the involvement of military and political authorities in folk ritual practices as a means for securing their legitimacy, and the material changes in rituals that have accompanied rapid commercialization from the 1990s. The second part focuses on the impact of the Cold War on local political and economic life and state-society relations. Despite some salient changes, the ways that people define their social roles and relate to one another are shown to have remained largely framed by values and morals from the sphere of kinship. Kinship therefore actually continues to constitute a distinctive feature of the local political-economic structure, countering an often-seen formula assuming causal relations between the dramatic political-economic changes and the declining role of kinship or “traditional” values in orienting people’s life and action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Hsiao-Chiao Chiu
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Steinmüller, Hans and Stafford, Charles

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