Wu Xu, East China Normal University)
Abstract: Shifting cultivation, side crops and wild edible plants are considered markers of primitiveness, which are often integrated parts of the food systems of many minority groups in south-central China. This article examines the historical materials in the 1700s concerning the seemingly primitive food system in Rongmei Chiefdom, central China, in the perspective of escape culture. Through marginalizing rice foods and rice farming, avoiding accumulation of grains, and using “unusual” foods as markers for the chiefdom-state boundary, and with the binary system of “shifting cultivation and shifting administration,” the chiefdom had successfully maintained its own ruling while escaping the control of state (the Qing government).
Keywords: food system, escape culture, Rongmei chiefdom
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