This week, I'll be in Boston at the American Ethnological Society Spring Meeting which is being co-organized with the Society for Visual Anthropology. There's a packed schedule of events, including film screenings, keynote lectures, and paper sessions, and I'm really looking forward to this event!
My paper will be on Friday, April 11, at 3 p.m. The title and abstract are below -- the session is a special "Media Makers" panel, with presentations that will feature substantial video and image-based work.
Looking like the real thing: Surfaces and stereotypes in ethnic tourism
Tourism to, and of, ethnic minority communities capitalizes on the experience of difference and, in particular, differences that can be experienced visually. This paper discusses the relationships between material, tangible surfaces and perceived (or anticipated) stereotypes in ethnic tourism in rural China. My aim is to move the analysis of imagery and representation in tourism beyond studies of tourist photography and the debates over authenticity, in order to consider the politics of appearance in ethnic tourism and the work involved in creating, maintaining, and presenting an ethnic reality that looks real to tourists. To do so, I draw on scenes and excerpts from my ethnographic film on tourism in rural ethnic China, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness (Chio dir. 2013), in order to illustrate how clothing, architecture, and other material surfaces are discursively understood by village residents as the real things that legitimate and demonstrate their ethnic distinction, and by extension their economic value, in the contemporary tourism industry. These surfaces are carefully crafted by village residents, tourism developers, and international development agencies to simultaneously meet and exceed existing stereotypes in a cyclical process of affirmation and appreciation, thus reinforcing Chinese state discourse of ethnic unity and global nostalgia for consumable heritage.