The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.
japan site


Udagawa, Taeko
Towards Revisioning Identity: Another Phase of Italian
Identity Discourse
Yang, Haiying
Reading Political Dimensions into the “Camel Fire
Ritual” in Mongolia--Ambiguous Loss and a Native
Ma, Jianzhao
Chen, Xiaoyi
Floating Population and Acculturation of Urban
Nonnative Ethnic Minorities in the Pearl River Delta

Towards Revisioning Identity: Another Phase of Italian Identity Discourse
Taeko Udagawa

Today some severely accuse identity of having caused and causing many serious problems, represented by identity politics, but others vigorously defend the concept as effective in spite of difficulties. Identity theory, even after the constructionist turn, has not resolved this dilemma yet. This article attempts to rethink and reconstruct the concept of identity. The key notion that this article brings into the discussion is relationship. In today’s concept of identity, we can easily identify the logic of separating and categorizing same/ different, that is, us/ them. This logic is just a rule, and is not concerned with any notion of relationship. By contrast, relationship means undecidability by any rule, and so is ambiguous, contingent, and constructive. The relationship concept suggests that we reconstruct identity, through which we can also rethink the issues of subject, solidarity and society. This alternative version of identity is not only an armchair theory. We can find some examples in daily life, even if they are poor and slight--one of them is Italian identity. Usually this is said to be a very weak national identity. But from another point of view, we can find there another phase of identity discourse, based on relationship. We need a more accurate discussion to recreate the concept of identity, struggling with the theory and the reality harder than at present.
Key Words: the concept of identity, constructionism/ essentialism, same/ different, relationship, Italian identity

Reading Political Dimensions into the “Camel Fire Ritual” in Mongolia --Ambiguous Loss and a Native Anthropologist--
Yang Haiying

The American sociologist Pauline Boss conducted a survey of families of soldiers designated as missing in action during the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars. Her study culminated in the launching of a concept called “Ambiguous Loss”. There are two different types of “Ambiguous Loss”. The author describes the first type as those where a family member is physically absent, but psychologically present because it is unclear whether they are dead or alive. The second type of ambiguous loss is where the person is physically present, but psychologically absent, as exemplified by patients of Alzheimer’s disease.
In this paper, I would like to propose that Mongols living in the Mongol Autonomous Region in China are also people who have been traumatised by this sentiment of “Ambiguous Loss” like those described in Pauline Boss’s book. As far as population size is concerned, these Mongols represent an ethnic minority. Nevertheless, in view of government policies, they are defined as a “major ethnic group” (zhuti minzu). These Mongols have undergone a series of harsh political upheavals in their history, including the “Great Cultural Revolution”. Even today, the admission or disclosure of any special affinity to, or adoration of Mongolia, the nation of their compatriots, is politically dangerous.
This paper aims to explore and identify what sort of ethnic recording and archiving would be feasible for these Mongols in Inner Mongolia, who have been immobilised by the sense of “Ambiguous Loss”. As an example of possible measures, the author presents the “Mongolian camel fire ritual”. This ritual consists of two elements. One is the tradition of “nomadic rituals”, while the other is associated with a reminiscence of the Zoroastrian faith. The author scrutinises the offerings and procedures of the camel fire ritual. It is noted that Mongols call “camel fire” the “fire of life”. Based on these observations, it is demonstrated that underlying the Mongolian camel fire ritual people’s worship of the “Primitive Fire” in ancient times.
It is strongly urged in society that support for healing be provided by communities and national governments for those individuals afflicted by “Ambiguous Loss”. Such an effort is indispensable. As for ethnic groups traumatised by a sense of “Ambiguous Loss”, the restoration of their traditional culture would be an effective method of “cure”. For example, in Inner Mongolia, the “Camel Fire Ritual” was reinstated by Mongolian communities in recent years. Such an initiative indicates how strongly they are aware of the importance of their ethnicity, culture and tradition. I was born and brought up in Inner Mongolia. As a native Mongol anthropologist, I am now actively engaged with the restoration of Mongolian ethnic culture.
Key Words: Ambiguous Loss, ritual of fire, nomadic rituals, camel fire, Political Dimension of Ethnography

Floating Population and Acculturation of Urban Nonnative Ethnic Minorities
in the Pearl River Delta
Jianzhao Ma, Xiaoyi Chen

Located in Guangdong, South China, the Pearl River Delta (PRD) includes 13 cities, counties or districts. With the high-speed development of the PRD economy, a prosperous city group with Guangzhou as its center has come into being. A huge rural labor force, including about 670,000 urban nonnative ethnic minorities (UNEM), have swarmed into these cities and lived in them for over half a year. Except for the references of this paper, all materials were obtained by personal observation, deep interviews and questionnaires during the field work period. Based on these materials, this paper discusses the floating population and acculturation of these UNEM.
The researches show that there are four features of the floating population of UNEM: their numbers increase at a surprising speed; many UNEM float in groups; the Chuang nationality is the largest UNEM, followed by the Tujia, Miao, Dong, and Yao nationalities; the spatial distribution of UNEM takes on the patterns of “integrated” and “scattered groups”.
There are both objective and subjective reasons for the floating population of UNEM. The objective reasons are mostly political and economic. Politically, the government has gradually been canceling the management pattern of urban-rural duality since the 1980s, and this policy provides admission for rural and pastural minorities to urban areas. Economically, the PRC has been shifting from a planned economy to a market economy, so that rural and pastural labor can move freely. Compared to the rural and pastural areas of “minority, borderland and poverty”, the PRD cities exhibit a large “economic gap”. The most important subjective reason for migration is to earn money, but there are many other reasons for the floating UNEM population, such as yearning for a rich and prosperous life, shortage of chances for development at home, the psychology of following others, unwilling to be earth-bound peasants like their ancestors, and so on.
The research finds that there are acculturations for UNEM in the three dimensions of substance culture, system culture and spiritual culture, and that acculturation takes on certain features and trends.
The acculturation to substance culture is extremely important for UNEM, because it relates to the basic necessities of life. Workers from near the PRD have no great problems with the climate, while workers from Yunnan and Guizhou often feel very uncomfortable during the sweltering summer in PRD. Different workers have different tastes, so it is difficult for enterprises to solve such problems. Except in certain special situations emphasizing ethnic features, minority workers are not willing to wear ethnic clothes, so in corporations where there is no need to emphasize ethnic features apparel is no any difference from Han nationality workers. Some workers make use of favorable factors to reconstruct the insides of their houses according to hometown styles, while others just have to adapt to what they get. UNEM couples seldom sleep together, because they have to live in different houses provided by their respective bosses. As for transportation, the adaptability of workers from middle sized or small cities is better than that of workers from rural and pastural areas.
Acculturation on the system dimension reflects UNEM quality of life. Some Mosuo people determinedly identify with their traditional visiting marriage system, while others shift into the leading marriage patterns of PRD cities. With gradual acclimation to the urban system and enterprise regulations, UNEM discontent grows less; when some of them become leaders, they also advocate or even make similar regulations. In social relationships, UNEM experience a process of separation from the rural version of the “Differential Mode of Association” towards the reconstruction of its urban version. UNEM are not registered permanent residents of the PRD, so they cannot share in national welfare such as education, medical treatment and so on. Therefore, they are second-class citizens outside the welfare system.
As to the spiritual dimension of acculturation, there are different degrees of acculturation problems for UNEM in terms of concepts and faith. In the PRD, UNEM concepts of procreation, time and discipline have been changing a lot; UNEM self-awareness increases little by little, and they have been heading for that state of free and self-conscious subsistence possessed by people in the modern society; gradually, they are obtaining the feelings of tolerance and understanding needed for peaceful coexistence with others in the multiethnic environment. Some UNEM stick to most aspects of their various primary religions and taboos, others adapt themselves to the dominant culture and overcome their religious taboos, because life is more important than religious observances; actively weakening their religious feelings, some religious disciples are seasoned with the dominant life style, because secular benefits are after all more realistic than pie in the sky.
Taking the entire acculturation situation of the three dimensions of substance, system and spirit into consideration, UNEM in the PRD fall into three groups: the “passing travelers” of cities, future citizens and “amphibian” people living both in the PRD cities and in their rural hometowns.

Key Words: the Pearl River Delta (PRD); Urban Nonnative Ethnic Minorities (UNEM); floating population features; acculturation