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CONSUMING THE TOURIST GAZE: IMAGINATIVE GEOGRAPHIES AND THE REPRODUCTION OF SEXUALITY IN LUGU LAKE

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT.

Imaginative geographies engage with the understanding and experiencing of place and place‐based social and cultural specificities through a process of re‐creation and reproduction. In this article, we explore the imaginative geographies of Lugu Lake, a tourist destination in China's Yunnan Province, and of the Mosuo people, the local minority which practices a unique marriage system. We investigate how Mosuo society has been imagined in popular discourses and representations through two cultural labels: matriarchy and free sex. We also discuss how the imaginative geographies of Lugu Lake have restructured the encounters between the local people, especially the young men, and the incoming tourists in the context of tourism development. We interrogate the complex processes of identity formation in which both the tourists and the indigenous people renegotiate and reconstruct their cultural identities within various inside–outside connections and interactions. Our central argument is that the sex encounters between tourists and the local Mosuo are conditioned by popular imaginative geographies of the sexual practices of the Mosuo. But the encounter in tourism between the gazer and the gazed also accommodates complex identity formations and the renegotiation of social relations. The empirical observations are twofold: first, the locality of Lugu Lake has been reproduced with folk and tourist imaginative geographies into an erotic frontier of free sex; second, we also argue that the geographical imagination in this case is a reciprocal process which involves the local Mosuo's renegotiation of place‐based identity, in a pursuit of imagined progress and modernity.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0467.2012.00399.x

Affiliations: 1: Center for Cultural Industry and Cultural, Geography, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 510631, People's Republic of China, and Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, United Kingdom, 2: Zengcheng College, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 511363, People's Republic of China 3: Center for Cultural Industry and Cultural, Geography, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, 510631, People's Republic of China,

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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