More on taxonomy

As with feminist punkvocal styles of the worldthe organology of the world’s instrumentarium, and indeed any other human activity, the taxonomies made by ordinary people are evident from their fine discriminations of nuance between pop genres that may seem arcane to the outsider—like acid house, drum and bass, grunge, indie, metal, Northern soul (“Naa, I’m not into the Manchester sound, guys”), rap, hip-hop, and even trainers, FFS  (don’t ask me…).

And just the same goes for rural dwellers’ perceptions of ceremonial genres and ritual activity in any single county of China: shawm bands, geomancers and spirit mediums (distinctions within the latter partly gender-based), [1] amateur sects, temple priests, occupational household ritual specialists, inner and outer altars, civil and martial altars, Buddhist Daoists and Daoist Buddhists (I kid you not), [2] “northern” and “southern” ritual wind bands around Beijing[3] opera troupes, singers, bards, beggars….

Taxonomy is not merely the preserve of the fusty academic; it’s part of what makes us all human.

Such perceptions can also arouse passionate and bitter disputes—never more so than between, and within, religions (if less so in China, notwithstanding imperial persecutions). But classification doesn’t have to equate with building walls. Whereas the brutish black-and-white (sic) xenophobia of a certain Tangerine fuckwit suggests that his sensibilities may not be so finely tuned, taxonomy can also reveal connections and build bridges.


[1] For just one region, see Adam Chau, Miraculous response, pp.54–8.
[2] See several reports in the Daojiao yishi congshu series, and Overmyer, Ethnography in China.
[3] See also my In search of the folk Daoists of north China, Appendix 1.

23 thoughts on “More on taxonomy

  1. Pingback: Orthodoxy | Stephen Jones: a blog

  2. Pingback: Festivals: the official—folk continuum | Stephen Jones: a blog

  3. Pingback: Singing from a different hymn-sheet | Stephen Jones: a blog

  4. Pingback: Vocabularies, educated and local | Stephen Jones: a blog

  5. Pingback: Countrier than you | Stephen Jones: a blog

  6. Pingback: Sacred and secular | Stephen Jones: a blog

  7. Pingback: Ashiq: the last troubadour | Stephen Jones: a blog

  8. Pingback: Our modern ears | Stephen Jones: a blog

  9. Pingback: Jottings from Lisbon | Stephen Jones: a blog

  10. Pingback: Singers of the world? | Stephen Jones: a blog

  11. Pingback: The heritage schtick | Stephen Jones: a blog

  12. Pingback: A Swedish psalm | Stephen Jones: a blog

  13. Pingback: The joys of indexing | Stephen Jones: a blog

  14. Pingback: Deep in a dream | Stephen Jones: a blog

  15. Pingback: Guide to a year in blogging | Stephen Jones: a blog

  16. Pingback: Accordion crimes | Stephen Jones: a blog

  17. Pingback: Deviating from behavioural norms | Stephen Jones: a blog

  18. Pingback: Flamenco, 1: palmas and cante hondo | Stephen Jones: a blog

  19. Pingback: Sardinian chronicles | Stephen Jones: a blog

  20. Pingback: New musics in Beijing | Stephen Jones: a blog

  21. Pingback: A taxonomy of taxonomies | Stephen Jones: a blog

  22. Pingback: Northern soul 北靈 | Stephen Jones: a blog

  23. Pingback: World music abolished!!! | Stephen Jones: a blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s