Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Beltway v. Hinterland

I was just watching the Meet the Press discussion about Howard Dean's recent comments, and I noticed the reporters making a distinction that is also central to what it meant to be a Yao person, when that label was first employed. The issue, as many of you know, was the reaction among certain Washington Democrats to Dean saying Republicans are basically a White, Christian party. While many Washington Democrats are upset, and afraid, of what Dean said, those out in the Hinterland, according to the reporters, are generally supportive of Dean; they want a leader who will stand up and fight back. Here the distinction is being made between Washington Democrats, those inside the Beltway, the Center, the Capital, and those on the Hinterland, the Periphery, far removed from the heart of power. As I will discuss after I eat my sandwich from Koch's Deli, what I discovered through the course of my research, is that the binome Yaoren傜人 (Yao people) was first used in official, Chinese sources in a similar fashion--Yao were those people living in the mountains of certain areas in South China who were not registered subjects and did not pay taxes. Obviously, it is not exactly the same phenomenon, but the notion of the Hinterland as a site that is remote with respect to the power base in the Capital, and is undisturbed by it (or would like to be autonomous from it), is crucial to understanding what it means to be Yao, and why Washington insiders were so offended by Dean's comments.


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