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2021-2022 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to announce

Curating Pasts: Tourism and the Musealization of Chinese Cities.

Reconstruction of Hutong Living Scene, Shija Hutong Museum, Beijing [photo by Zhang]

Wenhong Luo (Doctoral Candidate at Fudan University Shanghai and Visitor at U C Berkeley 2020-2021)

Nelson Graburn (Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Curator Emeritus, Hearst Museum, Co-chair, TSWG, U. C. Berkeley)

Friday, November 12, 5PM-7PM PDT

A Hybrid Presentation, join us
In person: Gifford Room, Anthropology and Art Hall, UC Berkeley
Or virtually: on Zoom [click here] *no password needed

Prior to attending in person, please:

  • Go to the UC Berkeley Daily Symptom Screener, on your desktop/laptop or phone
  • Answer all questions on the survey
  • Take a screenshot of the confirmation page
  • Keep this with you on your phone, in case you are asked to present it 

For those attending in person, please join us after the talk for dinner and continued conversation at Chengdu Style Restaurant (at Bancroft and Bowditch)

City museums play two major roles for tourists: they can be star destinations in themselves, presenting the most authoritative displays of e.g. art, nature, science, history, a nation, a civilization, such as the Imperial Palace or the National Aviation Museums in Beijing or, often in city districts or smaller destinations, they may serve as guides for non-local tourists about what is authentic and worthwhile seeing in the destination or region.

But, we are also witnessing an ongoing musealization movement in Chinese cities (Tung 2001), driven by what MacCannell (1976) and others have called urban/(post)modern alienation, when people fear losing what is precious around them and feel nostalgia for what has disappeared. The museum is no longer “a place of all times that is itself outside of time…” (Foucault 1986[1967]), it is becoming a model for the reconstruction of the city’s living spaces. There is a strong movement to preserve cities, to make cities museums of themselves in which people can live.

In Beijing, several districts have announced plans to build “all-for-one museum systems,” which intends to transform a whole city/district into a theme park, featuring the history, memory, and uniqueness of the city. In Shanghai, an experimental interactive play is making city spaces into a stage or theater, inviting people take a “city walk” tour in which each participant plays a fictional role in a curated historical script. Through literally walking through the streets, landmarks, and cultural heritage as the story unfolds, tourists are led to experience, enact/reenact, and imagine the memory of the city through the eyes of their character.

Through these case studies, we will examine the ongoing dynamics and tensions in the musealization of Chinese cities, as well as the “cultural urbanization” of rural areas. We ask how the city as museum both arises from and shapes people’s attitude toward urban spaces, and how this may shift the experiences of tourists. We suggest that this musealization makes their own city more authentic to the people living there. In fact, it makes them “tourists in their own city,” expressing the alienation – distancing, giving them an “outsiders” world view. This in turn may give real outsiders, the visiting tourists, the feeling that that they too can authentically participate in the local community and join in the “post-modern rituals of belonging.”

The “Kiln Museum” – the Art Museum of Jingdezhen City, built to resemble
its historic kilns, the most famous in China

Speaker Bios:
As curator, Wenhong Luo has worked for a series of museum exhibits at Yunnan Nationalities Museum, Mathers Museum of World Cultures in Indiana U., Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, Shanghai Museum and others in China and the USA. She wrote a chapter in: Quilts of Southwest China. Marsha MacDowell and Lijun Zhang (Eds.). Indiana U. Press, (2016) and China in 70 Selected Cultural Relics, Shanghai Museum (ed.), East China Normal U. Press (2019). She has also published “Urban Cultural Space and Its Sense of Time: A Narrative of Modern Museums” in Heritage, Xiaokui Wang (ed.), Social Sciences Academic Press (China), forthcoming; “How do Ethnographic Museums “Translate” Material Culture? The Concept of Quilt in China and the United States.” The Journal of Hubei Minzu University, (2020); “Anti- structure Communitas in Lasting: Art in Chinese Jianghu” Anthropological Studies, Zhejiang U. Press, (2017); “Two Cases: Neo-Marginalization Dilemma of Museums in Ethnic Minority Areas.” China Ethnic Relics and Museology, Shenyang: Liaoning Nationalities Publishing House, (2014). and others.

Nelson Graburn was educated at Cambridge (1958), McGill (1960) and Chicago (PhD 1963), and Northwestern (Postdoc, 1963-64). He has taught at U C Berkeley for 54 years, serving as Curator of the Hearst Museum and Chair of Canadian Studies and of Tourism Studies (www.tourismstudies.org). He also taught in Canada, France, UK, Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Japan, and Brazil and China. He has carried out research on change, identity, multiculturalism, museums, art and tourism among Canadian Inuit (1959-2014), in Japan (since 1974) and in China (since 1991). His work includes: Ethnic and Tourist Arts (1976); Japanese Domestic Tourism (1983); Anthropology of Tourism (1983); Multiculturalism in the New Japan (2008); 旅游人类学论文集 [Anthropology in the Age of Tourism] (2009); Tourism and Glocalization in East Asia (2010); Tourism Imaginaries: Anthropological Approaches (2014), Tourism Imaginaries at the Disciplinary Crossroads (2016), Tourism in (Post)Socialist Eastern Europe (2017), and Cultural Tourism Movements (2018). He has recently received awards for his works on the culture of wine consumption in China, ethnic tourism and rural development in China, and on disciplinarity, research methods and publication in the study of tourism.

Selected References:
Foucault, M. & Miskowiec, J. (1986[1967]). Of Other Spaces. Diacritics 16(1), 22-27. 

MacCannell, D. (1976). The tourist. A new theory of the leisure class. New York: Schocken Books.

Tung, A.M. (2001). Preserving the world's great cities : the destruction and renewal of the historic metropolis. New York : Clarkson Potter.
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