Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  
Project Team Members

Fang Yi-Jie

Fang Yi-JieMy research focuses on the relationship between landscape architecture and culture. The field location that I chose for my master’s thesis is a region in Yunnan that has an ancient route leading to Burma. Landscape architecture resembles nature, and many researchers have reminded us that this is the ideal medium for ideologies. At the same time, the tendency of space to overlap and the looseness of the connection between images and their meanings provide plenty of opportunity for manipulation in terms of the narratives that landscape architecture carries. What motivates mankind to build environments, on the one hand, also attempts to control the creation of narratives. This makes a material space to express the narratives. But on the other hand the narratives themselves influence the building of environments. Narratives and material form a cycle, turning the landscape itself into a cultural medium that proactively interferes with the creation of culture instead of staying still like a container.

My most memorable experiences since entering the academic field of anthropology are the field investigations. For me, conducting field studies in southwest China is like throwing myself into the unknown with every step. What is unknown is not the unfamiliarity of the things and people in the field, but my own reaction and sensations in that sort of environment. On top of that, because I am trained in the Discourse on Method, in the process of interviewing, photographing, and participating in events, I am always instinctively reflecting on my relationship with the local people.

Since I started my current job, I have had the privilege of handling many precious field photographs. Whenever I read about past researchers using their expensive equipment to photograph the local people standing in a row in order to collect data for research, or taking the data that they had gathered and inserting it into an already constructed national framework, I can feel the great sense of mission that kept pushing them forward.

Nowadays science is seen as “superstition” and attacked by writers, and if we contrast it with the concept from seventy years ago — that science is neutral — one cannot help thinking about the influence that the scientific atmosphere has on scientific research. Thinking of this, I begin to sense a conflict. On the one hand, I am envious, but on the other hand, I am alarmed. I envy the fact that the circumstances of that period of time made researchers to believe that they were on a great mission. However, I am alarmed by the thought that if we were to consider science and nationalism as the myth that influenced the impartiality of research, then as modern academics, what is the myth that we should watch out for?
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