This first-ever book about the Lisu brings their ironic worldview to life through vivid, often amusing accounts of individuals, communities, regions, and practices. One of the smallest and last groups of stateless people, and the most egalitarian of all Southeast Asian highland minorities, the Lisu have not only survived extremes at the crossroads of civil wars, the drug trade, and state-sponsored oppression but adapted to modern politics and technology without losing their identity.
The Lisu: Far from the Ruler weaves a lively narrative that condenses humanity’s transition from border-free tribal groupings into today’s nation-states and global market economy. Journalist and historian Michele Zack first encountered the Lisu in the 1980s and conducted research and fieldwork among them in the 1990s. In 2014 she again travelled extensively in tribal areas of Thailand, Myanmar, and China, documenting the transformative changes of globalization. Some Lisu have adopted successful new urban occupations in business and politics, while most continue to live as agriculturists “far from the ruler.”