Asian Ethnology is dedicated to the promotion of scholarly research on the peoples and cultures of Asia. It began in China as Folklore Studies in 1942 and later moved to Japan where its name was changed to Asian Folklore Studies. It is edited and published at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, with the cooperation of Boston University.
Included in this Issue
From the Margins to Demigod
This article introduces the Kinnar Akhara, a recently established transgender religious organization that stems from the hijṛā tradition, a religiously syncretic subculture of transgender individuals in India. The Kinnar Akhara was established in 2015 by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender activist and at the time a hijṛā leader, together with other hijṛās. Their purpose was to legitimize the presence of hijṛās (now labeled kinnars) and that of transgender people among the Indian population. To obtain this, they evoked a past Hindu religious identity, challenging the male-dominated and change-resistant patriarchal world of the akhāṛās, while also questioning the Islamic legacy of the hijṛā traditions. The article analyzes the Kinnar Akhara as a form of selective Sanskritization of the hijṛā tradition and as a form of religious feminism. It further highlights the complexity of this religious movement, which harnesses local and global dynamics and challenges cultural and social structures.
Moving the Living and the Dead
The bronze drum in Asia has long been regarded as a form of antiquity and a cultural relic of the bronze age, representative of cultural groups found in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar’s border region. Through a close examination of bronze drum culture among the Baiku Yao ethnic minority of northwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in southern China, this article reveals the constitutive role drums play in contemporary social and religious life. This article draws on eight years of ethnographic data and builds on a material culture studies analytical framework to describe the sacralized life of the bronze drum. Through a ritualized anthropomorphic metamorphosis, the bronze drum is said to become a constituted member of the Baiku Yao community and hold sacred power to bridge the human and spirit worlds during funeral ceremonies. This article analyzes the symbolic dimensions of the bronze drum as a cultural practice and as a medium through which Baiku Yao ritual order, social organization and arrangements, and interactions with the spirit world can be understood. It reveals that bronze drums today possess agency in their power to move people, living and dead.
William David Nitzky
Basketry among Two Peoples of Northern Guangxi, China
In this article, the authors introduce the present-day basketry practices found among two minority nationalities populations living today on the northern borders of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region: the Baiku Yao of Lihu Yao Ethnic Township in Nandan County and the Dong of Tongle Miao Ethnic Township in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County. The manufacture, marketing, and use of varied basketry forms is discussed for each of these groups, setting up a concluding comparison that situates these basketry practices in relation to more celebrated textile arts heralded within the People’s Republic of China’s extensive system of intangible cultural heritage promotion.
Lijun Zhang, Jason Baird Jackson, C. Kurt Dewhurst, and Jon Kay