Heritagization of disaster ruins and ethnic culture in China: Recovery plans after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Le Mentec, Katiana, Qiaoyun Zhang. Heritagization of disaster ruins and ethnic culture in China : recovery plans after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. China Information, Special issue on disaster management. Guest editor : Lauri Paltemaa, vol. 31, n° 3 (2017), pp. 349–370. DOI : https://doi.org/10.1177/0920203X17736508

L’intégralité du numéro (2017, vol. 31, n° 3) est en accès libre sur le site de Sage Journals.

Abstract/Résumé

This article discusses state-led heritagization processes in Beichuan and Wenchuan Counties, two Qiang ethnic minority areas severely affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake (China). Certain destroyed landscapes were preserved and turned into earthquake relic sites. In particular, the former Beichuan County seat was entirely heritagized for memorial, economic, and patriotic education purposes, causing an emotional conflict with locals still affected by loss and trauma. At the same time, Qiang cultural practices were hastily registered as national and international intangible cultural heritage, while reconstructed Qiang villages were transformed into heritage tourism destinations. These initiatives tend to reshape Qiang culture elements into fetishized commodities. Allocating massive funds to historically marginalized regions, these post-disaster heritagization programmes aimed at boosting economic recovery, as well as demonstrating state power, national unity and solidarity. Implemented using a top–down method, they appear insensitive to the affected population’s trauma and the sociohistorical context from which the newly heritagized elements originate. The disaster and Qiang culture heritage tourism not only failed to bring about sustainable economic development to the earthquake-stricken areas, but also ignored to a large extent the initial goal of ‘post-disaster cultural recovery’ and the virtues of cultural heritage in recovery processes.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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