2015-2016 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group
and the Center for Chinese Studies, UC Berkeley,
are pleased to announce
Materiality and Identity in Ethnic Tourism of Contemporary China

Fei Li
Associate Professor, Literary Anthropology,
Sichuan University, China

Friday, May 13, 5:00 PM
Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall
University of California, Berkeley

Today in China's huge market of ethnic craft and souvenir, Zangyin (藏銀), literally the "Tibetan Silver" by its name, has become a very popular material label. Different items made, traded and consumed in the name of Zangyin (藏銀) take a significant share of the whole market. However, what kind of material does Zangyin (藏銀) actually refer to? It seems like no one can make it clear without doubt. This talk offers a detailed exploration on the manifold processes of (a) how a traditional skill of silver alloy making created by ancient Tibetan artisans materially expressed their culture; (b) how the name of Zangyin (藏銀) historically rooted in the long-term interaction process between Tibetan and the Dynasties of China's Inner Plains and eventually came into being; (C) through the Social Alchemy of material in the mass tourism age, how Zangyin (藏銀) was appropriated and generalized as a general material name/a successful commercial strategy to pursue profit; and (d) how all those memories, narrations, making and consuming around Zangyin (藏銀) were integrated into the imagination and construction of multi-ethnic relationship of contemporary China. In the name of Zangyin (藏銀), materials could reflect some core ideas of value, beauty and tradition that embody the distinctive characteristics of an ethnic culture. But more importantly, the reflection between materiality and ethnicity is always interwoven in the comprehensive social-political framework of nation state, thus is neither direct nor transparent. Therefore, it needs to be interrogated deeper under the dynamical view of anthropological Tourism Studies .

Speaker Bio:
Fei Li is an associate professor of Literary Anthropology at Sichuan University, Chengdu, China and a visiting scholar at the Center for Chinese Studies of UCB. Her main research interests include Literary Anthropology, ethnic culture and society in southwest China and Heritage Studies. Her current ethnographic fieldwork focuses on the multi-ethnic cultural interaction in Tibetan-Yi-Corridor of southwest China, and especially examines the political-cultural impacts on local ethnic societies of the overwhelming campaign for preserving Cultural Heritage in contemporary China.

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