Accepted paper:

Embodying Tourism Imaginaries in Religious Performances


Yujie Zhu (Heidelberg University)

Paper short abstract:

Taking three religious performances in Lijiang as a case study, this study examines how these performances represent and produce embodied imaginaries through sensual communication between performance and tourism.

Paper long abstract:

Religious performance, as the representation, perception, and interpretation of local religion, is an intrinsic part of international tourism and helps (re-)build the place-bound identity in mediating the influence of global forces. The production, distribution, and consumption of performances create imaginaries about the shared life style and values of locals. Thus, religious performance helps to construct, folklorize, and ethinicize the local authenticity and distinctiveness. From this approach, religious performance highlights tourists' experiences of places in multi-sensuous ways that involve both bodily sensation and affect. The performance becomes an embodied practice that makes meaning and constructs collective identity as a contingent process. World Heritage Site old town of Lijiang, as one of the most popular tourism destinations of China, has attracted millions of tourists from around the world. The commoditization and its manifestation in the indigenous religion have emerged to satisfy the demand of its booming mass tourism. Taking three religious performances as case studies, this paper aims to explore how performances express emotions through the mutual communication between performers and tourists. It also examines how these performances are interpreted and transformed into embodied practices that transform religious images into the imaginaries of local tourism market. Through this process of bodily performing and gazing, religious performances show the dynamic forms of encounter, combining the homogenization of global capital and the heterogenization of local ethnicity.

panel WMW04
Anthropology of emotions and senses in religious performances