Interviewing Gaoyuan Hou: a Yi anthropologist

 

As I have written in my project proposal, I planned to work with Aite Gongyi throughout the summer. In my proposal, I would work with them to help enter local community and identify key informants to continue my work. But they later rejected to work with me because local government officials were giving them pressure. As a back-up plan, they introduced me to Professor Hou, a Yi anthropologist.

I interviewed Professor Hou in May. Professor Hou was born in Liangshan. He is an anthropologist at Central Minzu University in Beijing. Most of his works were done in Liangshan, and he was running a foundation in the Yi region to improve the lives of Yi people.

He gave positive respond to my research proposal. Few community based participatory researches were done in the Yi region, and fewer focused on education. No researches have been done from the perspectives of the parent-teacher relationship. He pointed out that it was necessary for me to study the language of the minority group in order to work with them. It would also be difficult to find a trustworthy translator and language instructor. Professor Gao gave me further instructions on literature review on relevant field, and he suggested me to study the problem from the perspective of anthropology.

He was also unhappy and even furious about how the Chinese media portrayed the Yi society. During the interview, he repeatedly gave me different examples of how the media distorted facts about the Yi people. For example, the actual school drop out rate was almost half of the rate reported by the media. The Yi was also not the only ethnic group who cultivated opium in the 1930s:war lords around China were all cultivating opium to sustain their army. The opium business actually helped the Yi to develop their agriculture technology, but they stopped it in the 50s. He believed that behind all the problem face by the Yi people, was the cultural invasion by the dominating Han society. He wanted the Yi to be seen as equal to the Han, and that their society was equal to the Han society.

He agreed to let me stay in one of his workstations in Yi region at the end of my interview. I did further literature review based his suggestions. His foundation was working on a ten-year project in one of the prefecture. He told me it would be possible for him to work with me in the future.