Myth and market: politics of cultural heritage in China
Since the UNESCO World Heritage Convention was ratified by China in 1985, the country has had forty-seven of its national sites inscribed as World Heritage. The ratification of the World Heritage Convention expresses the country’s efforts to embrace globalization, build up its national identity, and pursue economic development through revitalizing cultural traditions, and promoting heritage tourism. Heritage policies and practices in China are embedded in the context of the authoritarian market economy with global aspiration from UNESCO. It is often not the local community who identifies their culture that should be preserved and presented. Instead, central and local governments recognize the value of what they consider as ‘the authentic culture’ and promote accordingly. In this talk, Zhu will argue that culture heritage is not a global reward system. Through reinventing myths and cultural tradition, heritage serves as an authorized discourse to implement nationalism and legitimize commercialization. As a new form of social movement in China, heritage remains one of the most powerful forces that the state seeks to dominate popular narrative of ‘modern China.’
About the Speaker
Yujie Zhu is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World, Australian National University. His research in includes heritage politics, cultural consumption and production, and the practice of everyday life. His work has appeared in leading tourism and anthropology journals, including Annals of Tourism Research, and Current Anthropology. As part of his early work in UNWTO, he co-edited Sustainable Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites (2009). Since 2013, he has served as the Vice Chair of Commission on the Anthropology of Tourism in International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES).