Minority Theme Parks in China

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/world/asia/24park.html?hp

This is an interesting development coming from China in the realm of cultural heritage.  The marketing of foreign cultures for tourism has been a growing industry internationally and has fueled many of the repatriation disputes (would there be such vociferous claims to patrimony rights if there was not the economic incentives of tourism?).  This however is a particularly interesting case where living cultures are explicitly being turned into amusement parks.

Having lived in Florence, I can attest to how much a city can be turned into a Disneyland, a place representing an idea and creating an ambiance and thereby becomes a shell of its formers self.  These theme parks however seem to be a more overt characterization of cultures and an example of how heritage can be manipulated to reinforce a national identity.  As the article points out, “The parks are money-making ventures. But scholars say they also serve a political purpose — to reinforce the idea that the Chinese nation encompasses 55 fixed ethnic minorities and their territories, all ruled by the Han.”   The Han majority visit these parks to enjoy the mythical simplicity of the country and the novelty of the traditions of the 55 fixed ethnic minorities.  As I think over this issue, I wonder whether there is any corollary in the United States?

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About projectpatrimonio

Helena Boyden Lamb, born 1985 in New York, has studied and worked in Politics, Heritage Ethics and Politics, and Opera Singing. Most recently, she is working in Brussels where she started in a European Think Tank and is now the Executive Office of a NGO which facilitates Youth Politics across the EU. She has a Bachelor with Honors from Stanford University, California in Classics: Politics and Heritage and a Masters with Honors from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK in European Identity. She has conducted academic or independent grant-funded research in the UK, France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, and Albania. She was, previously, an archaeologist and an opera singer. Cynthia Querio is a Museum Educator currently living and working in Los Angeles. She is interested in heritage and identity politics and the role of museum education departments in the trajectory of this debate. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a 9 month graduate internship at the Getty Villa's education department and has continued to work in many museums in Los Angeles including LACMA and the Autry National Center. Her academic background is in the Classics, which was her major at Stanford University and which she continued to pursue with a Masters in the History of Classical Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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