China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Fault Lines: Tradition and Emergence in Poetry of the Borderlands

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 1, Exhibit Level

This paper will discuss the implications of imagery and themes of cultural and ecological change in poetry from the borderlands of southwest China and North-East India conveying new senses of being, place, and identity (Harrell 2001). Since the 1980s, poets from these areas—often members of ethnic minority groups—have composed poems with imagery and themes of cultural and environmental change. In many cases, poets juxtapose images of traditional culture with those of globalized culture which are “foreign” or have become indigenized within the emerging cultural landscapes. Poets of a certain age often have life experiences in more traditional times, and have adapted to new places, whether new iterations of old places, or wholly new ones, the latter being urban landscapes. How does poetry mitigate these changing cultural currents on the level of poets, or in groups for which the poets speak? How are traditions mentioned in the poems reconfigured in both poetry and real life? What does the creation of distinct, yet similar poetry say about the processes of poetic production and cultural change in the Eastern Himalayas and elsewhere? These and other questions will be explored by drawing on recent theory regarding identity, poetics, and eco-literature in Southwest China and North-East India. The paper will be illustrated by contemporary poems from the regions.

Mark Bender

Ohio State University, Ohio

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