Discussion with Michele Zack, author of “The Lisu: Far from the Ruler”
Award-winning journalist and historian Michele Zack writes about the egalitarian Lisu — a small ethnic group living primarily in mountainous regions of southwest China, Myanmar, and Northern Thailand. Until recently, the Lisu avoided becoming subject to these states, preferring to live “far from the ruler.” Zack traveled extensively in tribal areas of Southeast Asia from the 1980s through 2014, documenting 30 years of globalization on this one small group. Reading her book is like watching time-lapse photography of humanity’s journey from stateless tribal grouping to modernity — in a few years the Lisu covered ground which took most people generations. And they have done it in three very different national environments (five if you consider small populations in India and Laos), facing civil war and other existential obstacles, without losing identity. Written with a journalist’s eye for storytelling, Zack introduces the Lisu’s fascinating culture – providing insight into political choices we all make every day in a world turning toward authoritarianism.