The Gwer Sa La Festival of the Bai in southwest China was recently announced as a national Intangible Cultural Heritage Project and nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation world ICH candidacy, largely due to the local government’s promotion of Gwer Sa La’s religiosity by constructing and materialising the rhetoric of survival by a primitive fertility cult and ethnic carnival. However, the key concern of the participants is Gwer Sa La’s potency of prosperity, related to a series of encompassing powers vested in the patron god temples, taken care of by women congregations who renew the power of prosperity during the Festival. It is argued here that the state’s efforts to turn Gwer Sa La into an ICH project is an attempt of “superscription without encompassment”. The efforts are based on an imagined, primitive fertility cult that leads to sexual promiscuity and which entirely overlooks the locals’ concerns.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 58-75
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.