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SEMINAR: Asian Studies Seminar

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Asian Studies Seminar : Reimagining the Periphery: Tea, Trade and Tourism in Southwest China Other events...
This paper explores the confluence of cultural heritage, economic development, and regional identity around the discourse and multifarious representations that are associated with the ‘Ancient Tea Horse Road’ (chama gudao 茶马古道) (ATHR) of Yunnan Province. It argues that the ATHR as a loose conceptual totality is a salient example of how one particular ‘object’ can serve multifarious purposes. Firstly, the ATHR is an assemblage of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and cultural landscapes that has become the increasing focus of efforts at preservation and revitalisation. Secondly, the ATHR is also a cultural resource used as a marketing tool to promote tourism development. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the ATHR is a narrative of national and ethnic unity that attempts to reimagine the importance of the periphery vis-ŕ-vis the centre. The background for all of this is the profound cultural, social and economic transformation taking place in Yunnan that is contributing to an overall anxiety concerning the loss of the past and the possibilities for the future. In teasing out these three different yet interrelated uses of the ATHR this paper also argues that the ATHR is representative of the new confluences of governmentality in contemporary China which are fashioning artefacts at the intersection of the state, the market, and what I will term the ‘cultural purveyors’. In this sense I understand culture as ‘a set of institutionally embedded relations of government in which forms of thought and conduct of extended populations are targeted for transformation’ (Bennett 1992: 26). By ‘cultural purveyors’ I refer to those forms of experts who work with both state and the market in shaping ‘culture’ in specific ways. This includes both the scholars dedicated to researching the cultures and peoples associated with the ATHR and also the entrepreneurs (e.g. tourism developers) seeking to maximise opportunities for financial gain (and we should note that in this day and age of the ‘cultural market’ in China there is often a cross-over between ‘the scholar’ and ‘the entrepreneur’). The relationship between the three (that is, the state, the market and the cultural purveyors) is by no means straight-forward and at moments is marked as much by tensions between different interests as it is by a collective consensus. The paper therefore also considers the anxieties around notions of Yunnanese identity that provide insights into the ruptures on the surface of what seems to be a unified ideology of cultural/national development.
Speaker(s) Professor Gary Sigley
Location Seminar room G.25, Gr. Floor, Social Sciences Nth
Contact Laura Dales <[email protected] > : 64887249
Start Fri, 31 Aug 2012 14:30
End Fri, 31 Aug 2012 16:00
Submitted by Karen Eichorn <[email protected]>
Last Updated Mon, 27 Aug 2012 09:43
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