The Langchuang Epic and Pre-Modern Tai Dam Political Space in Vietnam
This article explores the political implications of a Tai Dam story entitled Langchuang. Found in northwestern Vietnam, the Langchuang story is an important Tai Dam legend of a heroic figure named Langchuang. Based on my research on Tai literature, ethno-history, and ethnography of literature, I argue that the story of Langchuang is crucial to the formation of pre-modern Tai Dam spatial consciousness which term I use after Charles Keyes’ (1995) and Benedict Anderson’s (1991) “proto-imagined community,” a shared identity over a large area of literary community whose residents are conscious that they belong to the same society without necessarily knowing one another in person. I take the Langchuang story to explore how the Tai epic creates the Tai Dam’s imagination of political space. Before becoming a part of the Vietnamese state after 1954, the Tai used literature to tie people in a large area together. However, instead of relying on print-capitalism, which invents a common identity among a large population of a literary community of texts published in a vernacular language of one nation-state (Anderson 1991), the Langchuang epic was disseminated among the limited ruling class in both written text and ritual performance to create a “place world” (Basso 1996), a social identity of which people demonstrate how the text and its ritual performance of contributed to a formation of the Tai’s political space and identity.
Keyword: Tai Dam (Black Tai), Tai literature, Langchuang, Vietnam
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