“Racist Park”

This New York Times article takes a look at Ethnic Theme Parks in China (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/world/asia/24park.html ). The parks are growing in number and popularity as more and more Chinese people have the money to travel.

The political and social aspects of such parks, and the relationship between the everyday practices celebrated within the park and the subgroup practices existing outside are all quite interesting. As I’ve suggested in previous posts, Chinese multiculturalism does not seem to encompass the idea that minority peoples can have a meaningful identity outside of “traditional” villages and cultural practices. Yet, as this article makes clear, the ethnic tourism industry influences the way that minorities in China live (and, importantly, since ethnic majority people are welcome to play the role of ethnic minorities, calls into question the necessity of the continued existence of minority groups from the perspective of Chinese inclusion).

Those people in the park covered in this piece are required to maintain their traditional wooden, raised homes while members of the same group living outside of the park are moving to concrete and brick homes. However, in an effort to offer accommodations more pleasing for park guests, those living within the park have dispensed with the traditional practices of having their guests sleep on the floor of their homes and keeping strangers out of their bedrooms. Instead, they have built guest houses and allow the tourists to see their bedrooms when touring the village.

I argue in my dissertation that multiculturalism in the United States is coercive, requiring that people who are “diverse” construct and enact a cultural identity that conceals or eliminates beliefs and practices that conflict with mainstream culture, that is enjoyable and consumable for others (e.g. in the form of ethnic theme parks or cultural festivals), and that demonstrates fundamental similarities underlying cultural diversity (e.g. we all love our families). In China it seems that at least the first 2 of these 3 characteristics apply.

This entry was posted in China in the News, Multiculturalism, Race. Bookmark the permalink.

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