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Erik Mueggler – Writing, Slavery, and Indigenous Sovereignty in Southwest China

October 11, 2023 @ 3:00 pm 5:00 pm

Speaker: Erik Mueggler, Professor Anthropology, University of Michigan

Imperial China managed its border regions by negotiating power with indigenous chieftains. Hereditary chieftains were allowed sovereignty over indigenous domains in exchange for keeping the peace and lending their militias to imperial campaigns. Ming and Qing colonialism in the Southwest took the form of a long, staggered process of abolishing indigenous chiefly houses. Yet such houses often recreated themselves, seizing partial sovereignty over smaller domains. This talk follows the diary of an aspiring chieftain adopted into a twice-abolished, Yi-ethnicity chiefly house in the late Qing. A stranger to the house, the adopted chieftain used his daily account to probe its relational ecology—relations among the former chieftain’s wives, concubines, and daughters, the eighteen elite enslaved bondsmen who acted as the house’s agents, the forty-odd domestic slaves who attended the house’s elites, and the corpse of the former chieftain lying in his chambers waiting for the chiefly succession to be decided. I show how the adopted chieftain used his written diary as a tool for divination: for probing the undercurrents of collective intention among the house’s enslaved residents that would ultimately decide whether the house would make room for him or kill him.

Please RSVP to attend the lecture here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/contemporary-chinese-culture-lecture-tickets-720028894807


October 11, 2023
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Boston University


Colloquium 101, Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering

601 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, Massachusetts United States

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