Indigenous Linguistic and Cultural Practices as Mediated Resources to Fight Against the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Case of a Zhuang-Centered Border Town in China

  •  Zhenyao Lu    
  •  Mengyi Luo    


Previous studies on multilingual crisis communication seem to center on developed countries or cosmopolitan cities. Our knowledge about how linguistic minorities get access to health-related information in peripheral regions remains under-explored in the existing scholarship. Given that China’s border towns are peripherally located and inhabited multilingual and multicultural populations, it is of significance to understand how linguistic minorities overcome their communication barriers in times of crisis. Adopting Emergency Language Services (ELS) (Li, Rao, Zhang, & Li, 2020) as a theoretical framework, this study makes a six-month ethnographic study with Zhuang people on how they mobilize their linguistic and cultural resources to get access to health-related information during the Covid-19 pandemic. Multiple types of data were collected from six Zhuang people of diverse backgrounds in age, gender, education and language through semi-structured interviews, participant observation, field notes and online interactions. Findings demonstrate that traditional Zhuang folk arts including Zhuang Tianqin Plucked Instrument, Zhuang Folk Songs, and Zhuang Clappers constitute important resources to facilitate indigenous Zhuang people’s understanding of public health information. The study also finds that Zhuang people have actively participated in fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic together with the local government by the revitalization of Zhuang language and cultural practices. This study can shed lights on including the indigenous linguistic and cultural resources as legitimate construct to participate in crisis communication and response to local and government policies.

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