Lunchtime seminar – 14 January – Richard Fraser

January 11th, 2019 by

 

Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Monday 14 January 2019, 1.00–2.00

Richard Fraser

MIASU, University of Cambridge

Cultural Heritage, Ethnic Tourism, and Minority-State Relations in Northeast China

In this seminar I describe the impact of cultural heritage classifications amongst the Orochen ethnic minority in northeast China. I argue that while heritage is often used as a top-down strategy by the Chinese state for rural and economic development, it is important to consider the bottom-up experiences of heritage-making and the use of heritage by minority actors to facilitate development in their own minority communities. Presenting an ethnographic case-study from the Orochen township of Tuohe, I show how heritage does not operate through the prism of a static and hierarchical relationship between a ‘Han-Chinese’ state, on the one hand, and a small-numbered ‘ethnic minority’, on the other. Instead, it is driven largely by Orochen themselves and, in particular, ethnic minority cadres and intellectuals who use heritage and the allocation of funding to channel development projects and fulfil the needs and expectations of local communities. In particular, I describe how the classification of Orochen practices such as birch-bark craftsmanship allows minority actors to demand benefits such as upgraded housing and improved facilities in the context of the ethnic tourism industry, to develop new livelihood strategies to counteract perceived cultural and linguistic loss, and maintain the right to hunt despite a much-criticised hunting-ban and environmental conservation policies. Of course, this does not mean that heritage-isation is a uniform process with no unintended consequences. As I show, it also creates divisions such as between experts and non-experts, changes the value of traditional practices, and affects the self-perception of the Orochen in the context of marketisation.


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