Accepted Paper:

The Mosuo matrilineal society as the Lugu Lake tourism discourse  


Zhengwen Yang (SouthWest University for Nationalities)
Shuxi Chen (Southwest University for Nationalities)

Paper short abstract:

The Mosuo people of Lugu Lake, China, are affected by large scale and rapid tourism development. Their distinct matrilineal culture is now packaged into a tourist commodity and rewritten by developers. Cultural rights are ignored in this power relationship that silences the owners of Mosuo culture.

Paper long abstract:

The Moso people living on the shores of Lugu Lake on the Sichuan-Yunnan border in southern China are entering a transition period which is market economy- and tourism development-oriented. Mosuo people depended until recently on traditional, self-sufficient agriculture, but, due to their distinct matrilineal culture are now packaged as tourist commodities in a large-scale quasi-urban development. The conflict is easily predictable, since tourism as economic and business operation is always pursuing profit maximization, and does not give priority to the Mosuo traditional culture's maintenance and protection. Michel Foucault's discourse theory states that "Once the human subject is placed in the relations of production and meaning context, it enters extremely complex power relations as well."

In the background of power issues, the question of cultural identity is affected even as the anthropological discourse is manipulated to construct touristic imaginaries of Mosuo as exotic, Other, romantic, and even sexually available people. This brings a kind of social aphasia that accentuates the demise of cultural authenticity, marked by distortions and misconceptions. The property rights of Mosuo cultural resource are not clear when the originators of culture are treated as objects to be developed and end up unable to speak for themselves. From the perspective of power discourse, the issue of Mosuo culture discourse is being transferred from Mosuo people to the developers and, in the absence of cultural rights, has a profound influence on Mosuo society. This brings us to suggest possible countermeasures.

Panel RM-KG04
Naxi and Mosuo peoples in China and their Eastern Asian Neighbors