Accepted Paper:

Landscape and identity (re)construction of New Beichuan  


Yue Qiu (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

This research examines the landscape of the newly built Beichuan county town. New Beichuan is a rare and representative example of the post-disaster relocation in China’s contemporary context, for the landscapes of New Beichuan indicates and reshapes the identity of the local people.

Paper long abstract:

This paper intends to make a probe into the identity reconstruction of New Beichuan residents through analysing the landscape of the relocated town. New Beichuan has 40 thousand population, among them less than half are earthquake survivors and the others are land-lost peasants who previously lived in the area where New Beichuan were constructed. Both of the two groups have lost their original homeland, and they are now reshaped as the citizens of New Beichuan.

As a relocated town, the landscape of New Beichuan is embedded with some crucial cultural meanings that are intended to demonstrate its historical characteristics. In this paper, I would argue that there are mainly three types of landscapes of New Beichuan: 1) the memorial landscape, 2) the Qiang ethnic minority style landscape, and 3) the gratitude landscape. These landscapes exhibit New Beichuan's image in three aspects, the post-disaster relocation, the Qiang Ethnic Group Autonomous County, and as the beneficiary of aid projects and supportive policies. As a result, the collective identity of all the residents of New Beichuan is embodied in the image of its landscape.

The relocation of Beichuan county town not only relates to infrastructure construction but also involves the identity reconstruction of its residents. Two groups of people with different social and cultural backgrounds have been settled together and are presented in a same image. During this process of identity reconstruction, the history of the earthquake survivors are highlighted and the history of land-lost peasants are ignored.

Panel P118
Mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-disaster contexts