Musical mobility ...

Musical mobility and the making of transnational religious networks among the Christian Lisu in post- 1980s Yunnan and Burma/Myanmar

Ying Diao


The proposed project on which I will be working at the Institute is built upon my doctoral dissertation, “Gospel Singing in the Valley: An Investigation into the Hymnody and Choral Singing of the Lisu on the China-Burma/Myanmar Border,” an anthropological and ethnomusicological study of contemporary cultural practices and social changes of the Christian Lisu in Nujiang Lisu Nationality Autonomous Prefecture in northwest Yunnan. It aims to examine how musical practices and objects are disseminated along with religion, develop social institutions, and facilitate to create transnational religious networks that connect the Christian Lisu across the border, and with neighboring ethnic groups throughout China-Southeast Asian regions.

The on-going research has three main themes and is open to developing a fourth in the process. The first theme explores the diverse manifestations of religious transnationalization through music with a focus on the cross-border trade in the VCD and DVD recordings of Lisu Christian music with reference to those parallel tain-yin-tha (ethnic minority) recording industries in Myanmar’s border regions. The second theme draws attention to both similarities and differences between Chinese patterns of Lisu religious networking and those in Myanmar and Thailand. The third sheds lights on major factors that have had a great impact on the cross-border flow of music repertoire and religious ideas in the region, some of which for consideration include—but are not limited to—changing state policies, new means of transportation and communication, technological advancement, and individual musicians’ personal influence.