Kam People’s Ethnic Identity in Narratives: A Linguistic Ethnographic Study

Author: Wei Wang (The University of Sydney, Australia)
Speaker: Wei Wang
Topic: Narrative and Metanarrative
CALA 2020 General Session


Against a backdrop of increasing interest in investigating the ethnic minority people in China, the Kam people, famous for the Kam Grand Choir, have drawn the attention of scholars from a range of fields including sociology, anthropology, culture and music studies. However, scant research has been done to investigate their ethnic identity from a sociolinguistic perspective, especially how their identities are represented and negotiated in spoken narratives with outside visitors.

This paper offers a linguistic ethnographic study in which the relationships between Kam people’s sense of membership in their ethnic community together with the beliefs and social practices that define this sense of membership, are expressed and manifested in communication with outsiders. Drawing on linguistic ethnography (Rampton et al. 2015), sociolinguistic approaches to identity analysis (Bucholtz and Hall 2005; De Fina et al. 2006) and membership categorisation analysis (Sacks 1972a & b; Fitzgerald and Housley 2015), this paper explores how the Kam people’s ethnic identity has been represented and negotiated in narratives occurring in fieldwork interviews with the researchers.

The paper focuses on the self-representation of a group of villagers in a remote village in Southern China, Guizhou Province and explores their ways of conceptualizing being a Kam with a view to examining the relationship between their representation of the ethnic identity and the sociocultural impacts on this identity construction process.

Keywords: Ethnic identity, narrative, linguistic ethnohraphy, minority group, China