Accepted paper:

Space, language ideologies and linguistic differentiations in Xiangxi Hmong area, China


Lijing Peng (Trinity College Dublin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the ethnography of space, which contextualizes and differentiates the performances of indigenous language socialization in Hmong communities in central China.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the relationship between space and local politics, especially in regard to language, of Hmong communities in Xiangxi Tujia and Hmong Autonomous Prefecture, central China. Current Chinese language policies towards recognized minority ethnics advocate their language rights with a hidden premise that the targeted communities are language communities (recognizing a unified use of a single language) and language right only refers to the right of speaking the language. This paper argues that the layout of living spaces influences the socialization of language uses according to local customs and therefore influences local language rights. For this purpose, it purposes to examine the Hmong Zhai (traditional congregated households) and bilingual public schools of indigenous Hmong communities in central China. The Hmong Zhai have facilitated gathering of relatives and communal meeting about village affairs. Hmong teenagers are socialized to local polities and the related language usages in this environment. As a parallel contextualizing space, the bilingual schools are different in physical layout and group-arrangement from traditional congregated households. They break up territorial and kinship links between students, and implant them with standardized knowledge and interpretation system through teaching standardized alphabetic Hmong language (an artificial and standardized written system that levels the local differences between dialects) and national courses in modern standard Mandarin. Accordingly, the spatial dimensions of rural life in these minority ethnic areas embody various ways in which the transmissions of traditions are organized.

panel P31
"Indigenous" space and local politics