Shanshan Du, "Love-Suicide and Social Change in a Gender-Egalitarian Society: The Case of the Lahu of Southwest China"


Friday, April 22, 2011, 4:15pm

Love-Suicide and Social Change in a Gender-Egalitarian Society: 
The Case of the Lahu in Southwest China
While love-suicide is a common theme in many societies’ literature, it has rarely become a widespread social practice. However, recent decades have witnessed an exceptional trend among the Lahu, a traditionally
gender-egalitarian society
 in Southwest China. There, the average annual rate of love-suicide alone during the past half century has been much higher than the overall national suicide rate and the average rate in global statistics. Based on her ethnographic research, Professor Du demonstrates that, notwithstanding the “siren-call” of love-suicide songs, the collision between the Lahu gender system and state-introduced social change has been the crux of the tragic outbreak since 1949.
Shanshan Du is associate professor of anthropology at Tulane University.  She earned her BES in electrical engineering at Chengdu University of Science and Technology in China and her PhD in anthropology at the University of Illinois. She is the author of Chopsticks Only Work in Pairs: Gender Unity and Gender Equality among the Lahu of Southwest China (2002). The Chinese translation of the book was published by Yunnan University Press in 2009.  She is the primary co-editor of Negotiating Women's Roles and Power: The Practice of World Religions in Contemporary Asia (a special issue of Religion, 2007).

Lihong Shi, Tulane University; and An Wang Postdoctoral Fellow, Fairbank Center

CGIS South, Room S153, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge