"Diversity without Difference: Rendering the Modern Rural in China’s Ethnic Tourism"

Religious Diversity Colloquium Winter 2014/15

  • Date: Oct 2, 2014
  • Time: 15:30 - 17:00
  • Speaker: Jenny Chio (Emory University)
  • Dr. Jenny Chio is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Emory University, USA, where she teaches courses on contemporary China, visual anthropology, critical tourism studies, and the anthropology of media. She completed her Ph.D. in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has recently published a monograph, A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (University of Washington Press, 2014), and directed an ethnographic film on tourism in two ethnic villages in China, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness (distributed by Berkeley Media, 2013).
  • Location: MPI-MMG, Hermann-Föge-Weg 12, Göttingen
  • Room: Conference Room
"Diversity without Difference: Rendering the Modern Rural in China’s Ethnic Tourism"

For more details please contact vdvoffice(at)mmg.mpg.de.

Over the past ten years, entire villages in China have been built or rebuilt as part of state-led efforts to promote rural development and urbanization. In this talk, I examine the processes by which one place, a Miao village in Guizhou, has been rendered – through computer generated graphics, local and national media, and social imaginaries – into “the modern rural.” Earmarked for tourism development in the early 2000s, the buildings and spaces of Upper Jidao village have been repeatedly planned, designed, covered up, and photographed by international consultants, US graduate students, news crews, filmmakers, fashion photographers, and provincial tourism bureau officials.

At stake in taking seriously how a place like Upper Jidao has been visibly and physically rendered even more rural, more ethnic, and more in line with national goals, is an attempt to extend the analysis of what I have called “the politics of appearance” in ethnic tourism villages (Chio 2014) in order to consider the appearance of the political in the physical and material spaces of ethnic China. While the architectural renderings of planned renovations in Upper Jidao suggest aspirations for a stable and civilized means of celebrating diversity without emphasizing difference, I will discuss how the burden of being modern, rural, and ethnic has fallen unequally upon particular individuals within the village, thus aggravating and engendering conflicts and uncertainties in village social relations and personal subjectivities.

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