Take a leaf of paper and scrunch it up; this will only give you a vague idea of the tortured relief, the criss-cross of deep valleys, the steep canyons and gigantic cliffs that characterise the north-western Yunnan region. As in other parts of the Himalayas, it is not difficult to imagine how mountains can ‘promote enclaves’ (Toffin 2009: 246), and how topography has long proved to be a strong determinant in shaping self-contained territorial units. Similarly, the Drung people of the north-west Yunnan province in China are associated with the valley they inhabit, and the bond with this valley is expressed by the name in their vernacular language: Drung (Tvrung), inhabitants of the valley of the River Drung (Tvrung rvmei).2 Thus, the autonym Drung makes just as much reference to the place as to its inhabitants, since both are inter-defined to some extent. ‘Drung-place-people’ (Tvrung mvli vtsang) appears to us in both its geographical-and ethnic-bounded obviousness. Given the small scale, it is very easy in this case to presume a ‘perfect’ intersection of territory, people and culture. Moreover, the Drung word mvli (place, site) has several acceptances and can be understood as ‘country’ (as, for example, in Tshongkwo mvli, China). Nevertheless, we do have some qualms about accepting this clearly delimited and bounded unit. Drung, the name of both the people and the place, might well be conceived of as a named and socially constructed ‘social space’. Therefore, even if the geographical delimitation of the group is a priori obvious, the relevant sociological delimitation does not necessarily stand to reason and, in any case, supposes the examination of particular contexts, to avoid the myth of insularity and homogeneity. Drung people are the exclusive residents of their valley. Therefore, if the appropriation of the territory and its redefinition by the groups that would have to share it is not what is at stake here, it is nevertheless at the heart of the relational definition of identities. That is to say that when investigating the relationship between the spatial dimension and social relations, territorial construction is seen as a process that contributes to the way groups are defined or redefined. In other words, I will emphasise regional forms of connectedness in localised culture, and prioritise the ‘topography of power’ over the ‘power of topography’ (Gupta and Ferguson 1997: 35). It appears that in the case of the Drung people,

territorial configuration is an integral part of the group’s definition, and political and cultural territory is a very effective builder of identity. The Drung nowadays form one of the fifty-five officially recognised ‘minority nationalities’ (shaoshu minzu) of the People’s Republic of China, and are known by the Chinese name Dulong, inhabitants of the Dulong River (Dulongjiang), with the Chinese names reproducing the isomorphy of the vernacular.3 The Drung are a relatively isolated people who live in a small valley of the same name through which the easternmost source of the Irrawaddy meanders. This is an administrative division of the Dulong and Nu Nationalities Autonomous County of Gongshan (Gongshan Dulongzu Nuzu zizhixian) in north-west Yunnan province (see Map 5.1). They number roughly 4,200 members within this narrow valley, making up one of the smallest official minority nationalities in China.4