The Touristic Gaze and the Chinese State: The Politics of Tourism in Post-1949 China
2: Memory, Homecoming, and the Politics of Diaspora Tourism in China
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Australian National University, Australia
Since 2014, a group of Muslims from Kazakhstan have travelled to China to celebrate their return after over 140 years of displacement from their homeland. Drawing on interviews with local officials and residents in Xi’an, this study illustrates the political factors of host governments and local Muslim communities in organizing the formal group tourism events. Unlike informal and personal travel, such officially organized diaspora tourism does not serve as a simple act of homecoming. The host governments have used it as a political tool to shape transnational networks and domestic ethnic governance under the discourse of ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. To fulfill this political agenda, the official narrative of diaspora tourism involves a process of remembering and forgetting, and the creation of itineraries that authenticates the imagined ancestral homeland while effacing the unsettled past. The itinerary of tourism events and related cultural practices focuses on a shared ethno-religious identity and common interests of cultural and business exchange between the selected diaspora representatives and host communities. However, due to its political nature, the sustainability of diaspora tourism does not only relate to funding and resource management. Such organized diaspora tourism is also closely associated with the shifting ethnic and migration policies of the host nation-state.