Colonial Language Acquisition: Literati Institutions and Textual Practices in Dali, Yunnan, 1253 to 1659


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




In the city of Dali, colonized successively by the Mongol and Ming empires, local elites sought access to power using tools of the imperial system. My thesis will examine one of these tools, literacy in Classical Chinese, the language of government and elite culture throughout the empire. I will use gazetteers, inscriptions, and local archives to identify the institutions that mediated indigenous elites’ access to political power in Dali in a changing political climate, to situate these institutions within Dali society, and to delineate the networks of literati that formed around them. The compilation and production of collaborative works like gazetteers via these networks further shows the transformation of the linguistic and cultural identities of Dali local elites under colonial rule.