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Reconstructing Tradition: Heritage Authentication and Tourism-Related Commodification of the Ancient City of Pingyao

Xiaoyan Su ()
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Xiaoyan Su: School of Land and Tourism, Luoyang Normal University, 6#Jiqing RD, Yibin District, Luoyang 471934, Henan Province, China

Sustainability, 2018, vol. 10, issue 3, 1-18

Abstract: This paper examines how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (CCPWCNH) is implemented in China, with specific reference to tourism development at the local level in the Ancient City of Pingyao (ACP). Based on a qualitative methodology and constructivist paradigm, the research employs observation and semi-structured interviews to explore how the interaction between heritage authorization and tourism-related commodification shapes the transformation of the local community. Giddens’ theories, amongst others, on modernity, time–space distanciation, disembedding, and reflexivity, are employed to analyze this case study. The paper argues that the reconstruction of “traditional-style culture” has contributed to the transformative processes in the ACP. Traditional-style culture differs from “traditional culture” in that the former refers to cultural forms that are purposely (re)constructed to serve contemporary political or economic needs, while the latter refers to cultural forms that are rooted in the local contexts of premodern societies. One of the impacts of traditional-style culture, which is the product of the interaction between heritage authorization and tourism development, is the emergence of a commercialized environment. This environment confounds the notion of authenticity that is claimed in authorized concepts of heritage. There, construction of traditional-style culture demonstrates the relationship of powerful actors with hierarchical power, leading to an unequal positioning of external agents (such as heritage experts) and local residents.

Keywords: authentication; heritage authorization; commodification; reconstruction of tradition; tourism (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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