- Fieldwork Connections: The Fabric of Ethnographic Collaboration in China and America
Fieldwork Connections tells of the collaborative relationship among three Yi researchers—Bamo Ayi, Stevan Harrell, and Ma Lunzy. The Yi, one of China's fifty-six nationalities, live mostly in the southwestern provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou, and according to the 2000 census, has a population numbering as high as 7,762,286. Stories of collaboration in this book begin with the description of Harrell's fieldwork project on ethnic relations in southwestern China (1991–94), are developed and enhanced through his sponsoring of the International Conference on the Yi in Seattle in 1995, and continue up to the exhibition and publication of Mountain Patterns: The Survival of Nuosu Culture in China (2000), which was written by Harrell and Bamo Qubumo and Ma Erzi. (Nuosu refers to "an ethnic group of about two million members" who are "part of the Yi" nationality .) Bamo Qubumo is a folklorist and Bamo Ayi's sister.
Among scholars doing research on China's southwest, the teamwork of Harrell, the Bamo sisters, and Ma is well known. They gained international fame from influential academic exchanges by holding international conferences on Yi studies. After Seattle (1995); Trier, Germany (1998); and Yunnan, China (2000); the Fourth International Conference on the Yi was held in 2005 at Meigu, Sichuan, one of the fieldwork bases of Harrell, Bamo, and Ma, where 104 papers or abstracts were given. In China, accounts in newsletters or on Web sites of their collaborative research (see http://www.yizuren.com), articles coauthored by Bamo Ayi and Harrell, and translations of Harrell's [End Page 196] articles and books are widely read and easily accessible. The participation of Father Benoit Vermander from Taipei Ricci Institute has further enhanced the collaboration between Harrell and Ma to social services. Together, they built an elementary school in 2000 and a "global village" in Yanyuan, Ma's hometown (Vermander 2005, 171–88). Fieldwork Connections details the germination and development of their relationship in specifically shaping Harrell's book Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China (2001), the collaborative Yi exhibition, and the coauthored book on that exhibition. Most importantly, the book exemplifies how a long-lasting collaboration begun from fieldwork connections is enhanced through conscientious and sincere efforts in reciprocity.
In the preface, Stevan Harrell tells how the book originated, was written, and organized. Harrell emphasizes the book's goal in inviting readers to "think about ethnography" rather than contributing to any theoretical discussion on ethnographic problems (xi). The main body of the book is in three parts, with nineteen chapters and an epilogue. Part 1, "Origins" (chaps. 1–3), gives an account of each author's upbringing in an ethnic environment, leading to careers in anthropology (Bamo and Harrell) and teaching in middle school (Ma). Part 2, "China" (chaps. 4–14), begins with Bamo and Harrell individually relating their research in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, and moves on to their encounter with Harrell's fieldwork on ethnic relations and education in 1991, 1993, and 1994. The book's title, Fieldwork Connections, originated from these chapters, in which Ma and Bamo Ayi are shown as indispensable to Harrell's fieldwork. Part 3, "America" (chaps. 15–19), has each author, and Bamo Qubumo, contributing one chapter on their reflections of their first contact in the United States (Ma), the first research trip to the Seattle Methodist Church (Bamo Ayi), and the collaborative exhibition of Nuosu material culture, Mountain Patterns, at the Burke Museum in Seattle (Ma, Bamo Qubumo, and Harrell).
Bamo Ayi tells us in chapter 1 how she, being half Yi from a noble Yi class, was raised in the predominantly Han environment. At their father's urging, the three sisters formed strong bonds in their Yi identity and careers in Yi research. In chapter 2, Ma tells of how he grew up under the Han shadow, where tension, mutual contempt, and conflicts between Han and Nuosu were...