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Dai Identity in the Chinese Ecological Civilization: Negotiating Culture, Environment, and Development in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China

School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
Religions 2019, 10(12), 646; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10120646
Received: 2 August 2019 / Revised: 19 November 2019 / Accepted: 20 November 2019 / Published: 25 November 2019
The Ecological Civilization (Eco-Civilization) is a Chinese political framework to advance a renewed human–nature relationship that engenders a sustainable form of economic development, and its narratives provide political impetus to conserve ethnic minority cultures whose traditional practices are aligned with state-sanctioned efforts for environmental protection. This official rhetoric is important in Xishuangbanna, a prefecture in Yunnan province renowned for its lush tropical rainforests and Dai ethnic minority. This article explores the relationship between Dai cultural identity and the Chinese state in the context of environmental concerns and development goals. Historical analyses of ethnic policies and transformations of landscapes and livelihoods are presented alongside descriptions of contemporary efforts by Dai community members and the Chinese state to enact Eco-Civilization directives, and they illustrate paradoxical circumstances in which political rhetoric and practice are seemingly at odds with one another, yet often contradict in such ways so as to further the Chinese state agenda. Moreover, case studies demonstrate how new policies and sustainable development efforts have often perpetuated structures and ideologies of the Maoist era to reinforce inequalities between central state powers and already marginalized ethnic minorities. These dynamics warrant further consideration as the Chinese government continues to champion its leadership in environmental governance. View Full-Text
Keywords: political ecology; spiritual ecology; Ecological Civilization; civilizing projects; sustainable development; ethnic minorities; indigenous; Xishuangbanna; China political ecology; spiritual ecology; Ecological Civilization; civilizing projects; sustainable development; ethnic minorities; indigenous; Xishuangbanna; China
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Zeng, L. Dai Identity in the Chinese Ecological Civilization: Negotiating Culture, Environment, and Development in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China. Religions 2019, 10, 646.

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