"Tourism is a complicated business, particularly if you are a villager in a poor, rural minority area of China. Jenny Chio's recent work focuses on the nuanced social impact of tourism, refreshingly adopting a 'backstage' point of view from which to examine rural tourism. As leaders of minority villages tussle with officials, tourists and even each other in an attempt to get 'doing tourism' right, Chio focuses on the effects this has on culture, power, identity, and ethnicities. Chio utilizes to good effect the lenses of scene and visuality (the need to look appropriate to a tourist), as well as movement and mobility, to analyse dilemmas confronting rural residents. The result if a satisfyingly insightful and convincing account of the stunningly complex landscape of tourism in rural China.
Of the many strengths of this research, two are particularly pronounced. First, the volume includes exceptionally rich research based on Chio's extensive fieldwork in and beyond two villages. This unusual penetration into the world of tourism allows Chio to compare the impact of developing tourism sites in two unique, yet comparable, rural villages....Chio is a vivid writer who uses her extensive fieldwork and visual eye effectively. Second as an outsider not to rural tourism but to the visual anthropological lens that Chio brings, I found her use of two conceptual tools -- scene/visuality and movement/mobility -- especially effective in understanding these two villages."
Donaldson also notes at the end of his review that my book should speak to the broader literature and be more clear in how I am contributing new perspectives and analytical findings to existing work on ethnicity, tourism, and social change. This is a critique that I take seriously and that I am trying to address in my current writing projects. As I have gained some distance from the book itself, combined with return visits to both Upper Jidao and Ping'an over the last years, I am even more convinced of the importance of studying tourism as a form of work and of critically unpacking the politics of visual appearances in order to understand the forces of power, desire, imagination, and obligation that inform decisions to change (or maintain) the "look" of a place and of people.