2020-2021 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to present

Memory, Homecoming and the Politics of Diaspora Tourism in China

Yujie Zhu, Senior Lecturer
Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies
Australian National University

Friday, October 23, 4PM-6PM
Zoom Link [click here to enter the webinar]

Diaspora tourism has become a significant form of transnational mobility that underlies many issues in the field of tourism and migration studies. Despite a considerable body of research that focuses on tourism motivations of home return and its social functions in collective identities and meaning-making, the political roles of diaspora tourism in shaping ethnic bonds and transnational networks need to be further acknowledged. 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 organising the formal group tourism events. Unlike informal and personal travel, such officially organised 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 fulfil 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 organised diaspora tourism is also closely associated with the shifting ethnic and migration policies of the host nation-state.

Speaker Bio:
Yujie Zhu is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, the Australian National University, Australia. He received his PhD in Anthropology from Heidelberg University, Germany. His research focuses on ethical and political issues that emerge through cultural heritage, memory and tourism. His recent books include Heritage Politics in China (2020, co-authored) and Heritage and Romantic Consumption in China (2018). He also co-edited Heritage and Religion in East Asia (2020) and Politics of Scale (2018). He serves as an Associate Editor of Journal of Anthropological Research.

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