Leave the Fields without Leaving the Countryside: Modernity and Mobility in Rural, Ethnic China
- Publication Type:
- Journal Article
- Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 2011, 18 (6), pp. 551 - 575
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Studies of internal migration in contemporary China frequently focus on the movement of rural people to urban centers, while studies of Chinese tourism concentrate on the mobility of urban travelers. These approaches to mobility coincide neatly with established understandings of modernity, despite the fact that the Chinese government has tried to promote certain forms of rural modernization without mobilizationhence the national slogan leave the fields without leaving the countryside. This article complicates the relationship between modernity and mobility in China by examining mobility from the perspective of returned migrants in rural, ethnic minority tourism villages. Through the analysis of five migrants' stories of travel, I explore the ordering of mobility, or how differing types of mobility come to be re-signified in times of immense social change and the consequences of these symbolic shifts on local understandings of ethnic identity and rural livelihoods. My argument builds on analytical frameworks of mobility in post-reform China by examining how mobility itself has been ordered in ways that reveal particular desire, inequalities, and power relations. By exploring how mobility both orders social relationships and how different forms of mobility, such as tourism or migration, come to be ordered in relation to each other, I draw attention to how mobility, and by extension immobility, generates the conditions of possibility for tourism village residents to make sense of the potential and paradoxes of rural, ethnic tourism development in contemporary China.
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