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“ETHNICITY IN THE CLOUDS:” HERITAGE GOVERNANCE IN POST-DISASTER QIANG COMMUNITIES IN SICHUAN PROVINCE, CHINA

Abstract
This dissertation explores techniques of heritage governance through investigating post-disaster heritage tourism practices in Qiang communities. Being one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China, the Qiang population is historically at the “periphery” of Chinese society. As such, they are targeted as subjects of economic, political, and cultural “modernization” and “civilization.” The 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake hit many Qiang villages. After the disaster, Qiang people have experienced dramatic transformations that range from environmental upheaval, long-distance displacement, and new subsistence strategies. From 2017-2019, the author conducted long-term ethnographic research in three Qiang communities in Wenchuan County, Mao County, and Qionglai City in Sichuan Province, China. The sites reveal a range of experiences in terms of displacement—from none to near and distant. The communities received contrasting degrees of financial support from the state and were subjected to different models of post-disaster heritage tourism projects. This dissertation maps out different forms of “aftershocks” that Qiang people have experienced when interacting with heritage tourism practices, which have become the essential way to achieve post-disaster reconstruction and “civilize” ethnic minority peoples. This research explores how Qiang people have participated in such heritage projects at different sites. It traces how alternative discourses of heritage have emerged through those interactions. The chapters in this dissertation provide a spectrum of heritage practices to illustrate how heritage discourses have been (re)structured through reconstruction and recreation of landscape, architecture, performances, and food. The conflicts, resistances, and negotiations under heritage governance blurs the arbitrary boundaries between “authentic” and “fake,” “tangible” and “intangible.” Therefore, this research challenges the “universality” of heritage by uncovering fragmented and divergent implications of heritage governance. This dissertation demonstrates that heritage governance is a powerful configuration that disciplines people’s bodies, manners, behaviors, and ideologies. It is a system that reveals complex flows of power at local levels. The diverse ways Qiang people have participated in heritage tourism practices, their emotions, consciousness, and endeavors, all reveal how social hierarchy is reproduced and contested through cultural practices. Ultimately, the dissertation uncovers the shifting social roles and status of Qiang residents and their fluid identities of being Qiang.
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campusfive
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dissertation
Date
2022-09-01
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