Encapsulation Variations

The Chinese annals relate that when the armies of Kublai Khan invaded, several tribal tu’ssu, in particular the Hani or He-man, offered prolonged resistance. In this context the walled city of Mojiang or Ta-lang (Akha: Tm-lang) is mentioned (Mojiang Editorial Committee, 1983). Full occupation of Yunnan and submission of the Wu-man, He-man. and Yung Barbarians was achieved slowly in bloody wars between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. This culminated in the Yunnan war between 1855-1873 in which the tribal peoples of the south-western border areas joined a rebellion of the Islamic Haw Chinese (ed: Hui 回族) against Manchu rule. The rebellion was also triggered by the danger of infiltration by Western colonial powers through China’s ‘back-door’, Yunnan, and its fabulous resources. This is confirmed by French and British sources. The British had occupied Burma. The French had brought the ‘miracles’ of French ‘civilization’ to Cochin China in the form of a rigid system of taxation and forced labour. In Yunnan they found an impoverished and desperate population, oppressed by Hani or Tai tu’ssu and Chinese administrators (Scott and Hardiman, 1900; Bonifacy, I904; Henry. I903; Madrolle. 1925; Vial. 1917).

Over many centuries, therefore, the more inaccessible parts of mountainous southern Yunnan, and neighbouring Vietnam, Laos, and Burma became the ‘zonas de refugio’ for tribal groups marginalized by the smaller vassal states which occupied the lowland aras. In this process of marginalization, tribal groups such as the Hani and Akha also selected and constructed their habitats — in terms of altitude and surrounding forestation – in such a way that they would not be easily accessible to soldiers, bandits, and tax-collectors. Such processes have been termed ‘encapsulation’ (Douglas, 1965). They led in this case to differentiation in dialect and forms of dress. In parallel, however, they developed a distinctive unifying social and political structure. which I have called an ‘ethnic alliance system’.
— Leo Alting von Gesau, Akha Internal History: Marginalization and the Ethnic Alliance System in Turton (ed.) Civility and savagery: social identity in Tai States

Contrast a personally more familiar usage: data and methods need to be forcibly constrained over time to stay within the control of the engineer of the system.

This is not an attempt at etymology. I would guess the source of the computer science definition is more likely via chemistry.

I found the quote in another book, and due to the weirdly patchy nature of google books was able to find the source of the quote but not of the original term encapsulation as used by Douglas in 1965. Only the first page of the bibliography of Civility and savagery: social identity in the Tai states is available online. I wonder if this is due to a little sloppiness in scanning. I can imagine the impatient intern thinking “who reads bibliographies anyway, all the content is already over”. Or perhaps it’s the fault of some weird copyright terms condition analogous to the text-as-unicode text being present for search but not accessible to copy and paste, so getting back to text requires using FreeOCR. I’m not even sure who Douglas is – some second guessing suggests perhaps Mary Douglas, who did write about construction of excluded groups, but didn’t publish a book that year and whose Purity and Danger from a year later doesn’t contain the word encapsulation. It’s very weird having the science fictional awesomeness of Google books at your fingertips, but having to search a library like a really long Word document, when the hyperlink equivalent (ie, a reference) could be right there.

At any rate, without a physical copy of the book in a library I can access, Douglas’ definitive coining has gone 404 and the brave digital world of Google books has worse linkrot than a standard academic bibliography. I guess their hrefs are a little too thoroughly encapsulated.


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