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Statement of Purpose

The purpose of the Mosuo Cultural Development Association is to provide whatever assistance and support we can to help the Mosuo achieve the goals that they themselves have set. To this end, there are several primary principles to all work that we do:

1) All projects and priorities are determined by Mosuo leaders in the Association. Any non-Mosuo who are involved serve in an advisory/supportive position, to help the Mosuo accomplish those goals. Anyone seeking to come in and tell the Mosuo what they should do, or to run their own projects, will not be included in our work.

2) All projects focus on long-term, sustainable development. None of our projects just give money as handouts. We do not seek to make the Mosuo dependent on outside aid, but rather to assist them in developing greater independence.

3) No promotion, marketing, or advertising for our programs will ever present the Mosuo as a poor, pitiful people. The Mosuo we work with are strong, determined, and proud of their culture. They have already accomplished much on their own, despite meager resources and significant obstacles. We seek to show that determination, strength, and pride to everyone else, and encourage others to work with them as partners.

4) Anyone and everyone, regardless of race, religion, or gender, is welcome to work with us and support us. However, we insist that anyone working with the Association refrain from religious proseletyzation, or any other 'personal' agenda. People coming in with the express purpose of "changing" the Mosuo -- their religious beliefs, their cultural practices, etc. -- is not welcome.

5) Everyone working with the Association is expected to abide by the laws in China; and particularly not to use their work/experience with the Mosuo as an excuse for anti-Chinese statements or political work. Our work is non-political, done for the benefit of the Mosuo people; those who seek to use the Mosuo for their own political purposes not only act selfishly, but also endanger much of the very positive work that is being done.

Philosophy

The following statement was written by John Lombard, co-founder of the Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association, and explains the association's philosophy in regards to “changing” the Mosuo culture.

Ever since I started this project, one of the most frequent questions/issues I have faced is the question of if the Mosuo should change; and if so, how? Some people have told me that they feel Mosuo culture is "primitive" and "pointless". They feel that the Mosuo should be encouraged to abandon their "outdated" practices, and embrace the modern world. Other people have told me that we should do our best to "shield" and "protect" the Mosuo, to shut them off from outside influences, and to help them preserve their culture intact, unchanged.

Quite frankly, I disagree with both attitudes. Although they may seem diametrically opposed to each other, they are actually remarkably similar. "How are they similar?" you may ask. They are similar in that both attitudes essentially seek to remove the choice from the Mosuo themselves. Both attitudes come from people who really don't care what the Mosuo themselves want; they simply have their own presuppositions about what is "right", and then seek to impose that on the Mosuo.

Now, certainly, I'm opposed to the idea that the Mosuo should just "abandon" their culture. Not only is it one of the most unique cultures in the world, I believe that there is also much that others can learn from it. And as a specialist in cross-cultural issues, I believe very strongly in the value of every culture, and am opposed to any form of cultural imperialism that seeks to impose one culture on another.

But on the other hand,, I believe very strongly that every culture changes and evolves, both due to internal factors (improved economy, technological advances, etc.), and external factors (contact with other cultures). And furthermore, I believe that it is healthy for a culture to change and evolve over time -- so long as the culture isn't simply overwhelmed by someone else, and lost entirely.

And then there are the Mosuo themselves. Most Mosuo are certainly concerned about the changes taking place in their culture, and are worried about the loss of many uniquely Mosuo practices in the younger generation. But on the other hand, they do want to know about the outside world. They want the chance to travel and see other cities/countries. They want the chance for their children to get better educations, to learn other skills, to gain new knowledge, to have new opportunities.

Quite frankly, change is inevitable and unstoppable. Its going to happen -- in fact, its already happening. The only real question is how that change will affect the Mosuo. In this regard, there are two main possibilities:

1) The Mosuo could simply be overwhelmed by the "outside" world, and within 50 years we may see the complete demise of their culture. This is what will almost certainly happen if the Mosuo do not have the knowledge, skills, and tools to be able to determine their own future.

2) The Mosuo will change, but still retain unique aspects of their own culture; they will integrate aspects of other cultures with their own culture. In this way, although it will change, much of the Mosuo culture will also be preserved.

Obviously, it is my belief -- and the belief of all the Mosuo working with me in the Association -- that the second option is by far the better of the two. Therefore, all of our projects are directed toward that goal.

I can sum it all up in one word -- "CHOICE".

The Mosuo culture is going to change. But we can help the Mosuo so that it will be they themselves who choose how it changes, and to control the changes in the manner which best benefits them, and best meets their needs.

This is bound to be an area that will elicit a wide variety of opinions and beliefs; you are welcome to contribute your own ideas and comments in our discussion forums.

 


© 2006 Lugu Lake Mosuo Cultural Development Association

photos taken by Danny Gawlowski and Josie Liming