Heterophotographies: play, power, privilege and spaces of otherness in Chinese tourist photography
(2021) Culture, Theory and Critique
This article explores Han Chinese tourists’ practice of self-photography in ‘ethnic’ ‘costume’ at tourist sites in China and Japan. Drawing on ethnography and interviews with young Han women, it aims to problematise the innocence of such play. Contextualising this analysis with the visualisation of identity within China, this article explores how the playful mode itself allows for Han individuals to position themselves as ‘sophisticated’ in their consumption of traditional cultures, while tacitly separating them from the supposed ‘traditionality’ of other groups. Drawing on Huizinga’s ‘magic circle’ and Foucault’s concept of ‘heterotopias’, it is argued that the imaginative space that is created is not at the tourist location, but rather within the confines of the images themselves. Analysing the ways in which tourists play out their ideas of ‘ethnic others’, it explores the tropes within the photographs, and how these link to wider practices of ‘othering’. The article explores the ways in which ‘play’ renders cultural difference ‘safe’-because-‘not serious’–but also positions those in a privileged position to safely play with different cultures supposedly superior in their ability to do so. © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Chinese tourism; ethnic othering; Foucault’s heterotopias; Hanfu; playful tourism; tourist photography