Seeing Like a Minority: Political Tourism and the Struggle for Recognition in China

Uradyn E. Bulag


This paper outlines the operation of what may be called “political tourism” in China, and analyses the role of the sensorial technology of “seeing” in the kind of narrative this tourism engenders. Beginning in 1950, the newly established People’s Republic of China launched an annual tradition of inviting non-communist elites to attend the May Day and the National Day (1 October) parades on Tiananmen Square in Beijing and in some metropolitan cities. Unlike contemporary ethnic tourism, wherein minorities and their cultures become the objects of the tourist gaze, Chinese political tourism aims at bringing minority leaders out of their putative “isolation”, treating them with hospitality, and ultimately making them “see with their own eyes” China’s “true face”.

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