The contemporary gospel singing of the Nujiang Lisu in China’s southwestern Yunnan province seems to have been predominated by new media technologies and recorded popular mutgguat ssat music. The prevalence of Christian audiovisual recordings reflects more than a shift in the materiality of Lisu religious practices. Moreover, it speaks to the transformative ways that the Christian Lisu have engaged with technologies for their gospel singing as a practice of religious mediation. New musical styles and expressive forms have been disseminated through recordings and further institutionalized in the worship service and other religious settings. Drawing on a material approach from the recent studies of religion as mediation, rather than perceiving modern mass media as destructive to the traditional hymn singing and authentic religious experience, I examine how recording-mediated mutgguat ssat singing celebrates Lisu religious, social and cultural identities in contemporary Nujiang society. I contend that the adoption of audiovisual recording has enriched Lisu singing to operate as a resilient medium through the use of which elements of traditional cultural forms are incorporated to encourage religious participation and further produce a more genuine Lisu expression of Christianity on a daily basis.

Author Biography

Ying Diao is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. Ying graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a Ph.D. degree in ethnomusicology (May 2016). Based on multi-sited fieldwork in China, Myanmar, and Thailand between 2012 and 2014, her doctoral dissertation has studied contemporary religious practices and social changes of the Christian Lisu in Nujiang Prefecture of northwest Yunnan on the China-Myanmar border. It uses the lens of music to examine politics of ethnic and religious expressions in China’s minority border regions. Built upon her dissertation, her on-going project titled “Musical Mobility and the Making of Transnational Religious Networks among the Christian Lisu in post-1980s Yunnan and Myanmar,” is part of the Institute's research program on “Cross-border Religious and Ethnic Development between South-West China and South-East Asia.” Her other research interests lie in the ethnomusicological studies of world Christianities, in the modern history of Chinese-Western cultural exchange, and in the musics of minority nationalities and multiculturalism in modern Chinese society. Prior to her graduate study at Maryland, Ying received her M.A. in Theory of Literature and Arts from Fudan University, Shanghai (June 2008) and her B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature from Tsinghua University, Beijing (July 2005).

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