Tourism and Consumer Citizenship in Contemporary China

Tim Oakes

Argument: Leisure can be viewed as a technology of government in contemporary China, a project of social ordering directed at shaping certain kinds of conduct. As with all social ordering projects, however, the unintended outcomes – Foucault’s ‘instrument-effects’ – bring about their own social (dis)orderings in unexpected ways. Consumer citizenship may thus be viewed as both the effect of ordering projects as well as the political outcome of unintended processes of subject formation that such projects unintentionally bring about. The paper will explore this thesis from a spatial perspective, focusing on spaces of tourist consumption as exemplary ‘governable’ spaces, and offering some preliminary speculations by examining examples of tourist landscapes in Chengdu and Guizhou. The final case explores the ways governable spaces of leisure modeled on urban-based consumer citizenship have become projects in the reform and ordering of rural society as well.

Leisure as ordering

  • What is the relationship between leisure and social control?
  • What sort of governmental technology is leisure?
  • Leisure and social control in China?

Consumer citizenship

  • A cultural economy of consumption
    • Reimbedding everyday economic activity in a social-moral context of rights and responsibilities
    • Visitable places – produce ‘model consumers’ rather than ‘model citizens’?
  • Consumer citizenship in China

Spaces of consumption

  • Governable spaces / exemplary spaces
    • Governable space
    • Governable space in China
    • Exemplary sites and pedagogical space in China
  • Tourist landscapes as governable spaces: case studies
    • Chengdu’s Tianfu Square and Kuanzi Xiangzi
    • Guizhou’s Leishan Town
    • The village as a landscape of consumption

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