Disneyization in Shangri-La

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Disneyization in Shangri-La

Type: Master thesis
Title: Disneyization in Shangri-La
Author: Baks, Maaike
Issue Date: 2017-08-17
Keywords: Authenticity
Theme Park
Abstract: In 2001, the Chinese government officially recognized Zhongdian County in Yunnan Province as Shangri-La, which is a fictional concept that signifies paradise introduced by the British author James Hilton (1933). Ever since the region has been renamed, some visitors have started to express that Shangri-La County has transformed into a theme park and has lost its authenticity. The current essay explored, by using Bryman’s (2004) theory of Disneyization as a framework, whether it can be said that the name change into Shangri-La has changed the region into a theme park. The resources of this research were scholarly literature, travel blogs and TripAdvisor reviews about Shangri-La. Of the four principles mentioned in Disneyization, that all describe a trend common to a theme park, the principles of theming, hybrid consumption and merchandising were all found to be take place in the Shangri-La region. Only performative labor, as defined in the theory, was considerably less present in Shangri-La County. However, in regard to how Chinese theme parks (like Yunnan Ethnic Folk Village) function, such as the lack of smiling service, the principle of performative labor may still apply to Shangri-La. Thus, the result indicates that Shangri-La is comparable to a theme park and that how the theory of Disneyization is defined currently has no universal validity because it takes no cultural differences in account. Furthermore, in view of Jean Baudrillard’s (1994) account of postmodernism, Shangri-La is similar to a theme park in that they both create a hyper-reality in which a highly similar but ‘unreal’ reality is experienced by visitors through the processes of simulation or simulacrum. In this sense, the Shangri-La narrative has bestowed a frame by which tourists started to percept and experience the region’s authenticity. However, considering that Western tourists are predominantly the ones seeking authenticity in Shangri-La – may it be an authentic setting or an authentic self – it is their confrontation with the touristic environments like Dukezong that sways them to evaluate the region as a theme park. The voices of the local population and Chinese tourists were not brought into account in the current research; future research should therefore explore deeper how these groups’ experience the changes in Shangri-La County.
Supervisor: Landsberger, Stefan
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Asian Studies (60 EC) (Master)
Specialisation: Politics, Society and Economy of Asia
ECTS Credits: 15
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/54459

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