Jenny T. Chio
A Landscape of Travel
The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China
Left Coast Press 2014
While the number of domestic leisure travelers has increased dramatically in reform-era China, the persistent gap between urban and rural living standards attests to ongoing social, economic, and political inequalities. The state has widely touted tourism for its potential to bring wealth and modernity to rural ethnic minority communities, but the policies underlying the development of tourism obscure some complicated realities. In tourism, after all, one persons leisure is another persons labor.
A Landscape of Travel investigates the contested meanings and unintended consequences of tourism for those people whose lives and livelihoods are most at stake in Chinas rural ethnic tourism industry: the residents of village destinations. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Pingan (a Zhuang village in Guangxi) and Upper Jidao (a Miao village in Guizhou), Jenny Chio analyzes the myriad challenges and possibilities confronted by villagers who are called upon to do the work of tourism. She addresses the shifting significance of migration and rural mobility, the visual politics of tourist photography, and the effects of touristic desires for exotic difference on village social relations. In this way, Chio illuminates the contemporary regimes of labor and leisure and the changing imagination of what it means to be rural, ethnic, and modern in China today.