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Conferência “Strategies of Ethnic Tourism Development in China” (Nelson Graburn)

11/10/2018, 15:00

Conferência “Strategies of Ethnic Tourism Development in China”
Nelson Graburn (Professor Emeritus in Sociocultural Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley)

11 de outubro de 2018, 15h
Auditório 1, Torre B, NOVA FCSH


China’s population of 1.3 billion includes fifty-six official nationalities or minzu of which 110 million, nearly 10%, are “minority” (i.e. non-Han) ‘small nationalities, or ‘ethnic groups’, found mostly in Southern and Western provinces. Most of the rural people are poor and so have been subject to development efforts. Under Mao Zedong development was promoted through education and technical advancements, and “backward customs” such as polygamy, foot-binding, superstition and religion were banned. After the opening up of 1978, narrowing the gap between minzu and the majority Han has focused on poverty alleviation through education and wage labor. Prime has been the promotion of domestic tourism to rural areas where ethnic “difference” is maintained through traditional performances and products, ironically often reviving formerly banned cultural forms.

1. One path, stressed by NGOs and foreign advisors, emphasizes the preservation of “authentic” material and performative culture while developing the lives of those still in ‘traditional’ villages. This often allows the villagers to choose their development paths and to redistribute the income according to local participation, as commonly found in Guizhou. However external capital and the Party often corrupt the process by creating monopolies and banning the informal sector.

2. A second development is the introduction of holiday hotels and businesses to be run by the ethnic minzu, but without cultural performances These businesses are often called ‘nong jia le’ 农家乐, ‘peasant family happiness,’ This prize-winning strategy was first started in Guangxi but has been successfully copied elsewhere. Again, forces of commoditization or takeover by external capital may create inauthentic ‘MacDonaldization.’

3. A third direction is the ‘hyperdevelopment’ of ethnic performances by creative outside producers, in Theme Parks and tourist venues. My examples are mainly from Yunnan, Guanxi and Guangdong.

But, as we shall see, not all rural ethnic villages can develop through tourism.


Nelson Graburn was educated in the classics and natural sciences at the King’s School, Canterbury, and he earned his BA in Social Anthropology at Cambridge (1958). He attended McGill (MA 1960) and University of Chicago (PhD 1963) in Cultural Anthropology. After Postdoc at Northwestern University, doing research on Inuit-Naskapi/Cree interethnic relations (1963-64), he was hired at U C Berkeley where he has taught Anthropology for 54 years. He served as Curator of North America in the Hearst Museum since 1972 and co-chair of Canadian Studies 1976-2014. He has held visiting positions in Canada, France, UK, Japan, and Brazil and has lectured at 39 universities in China. He has lived in 22 Inuit communities (1959-2014) in the Canadian Arctic (and Greenland and Alaska) doing research on kinship, cultural change, art and identity. He has carried out research on domestic tourism, multiculturalism and heritage in Japan (since 1974) and China (since 1991).

His books and edited volumes include: Ethnic and Tourist Arts (1976);  Japanese Domestic Tourism (1983); The Anthropology of Tourism (1983); Tourism Social Sciences [with Jafar Jafari] (1991); Multiculturalism in the New Japan (2008); 旅游人类学论文集 [Anthropology in the Age of Tourism] (2009); Tourism and Glocalization: Perspectives in East Asian Studies [with Han Min] (2010); Tourism Imaginaries: Anthropological Approaches [with Noel Salazar] (2014), Tourism Imaginaries at the Disciplinary Crossroads [with Maria Gravari-Barbas] (2016), Tourism in (Post)Socialist Eastern Europe [with Magdalena Banaszkiewicz and Sabina Owsianowska] (2017), and Cultural Tourism Movements (2018) [with Alexis Bunten].


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