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Diasporic Identity, Heritage, and "Homecoming": How Sarawakian-Chinese Tourists Feel on Tour in Beijing

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The Chinese have become one of the most widely dispersed races across the globe. Yet they have often implicitly resisted this dispersion by a powerful, but often unspoken, mythic commitment to the image of China as an enduring homeland, rather than accepting any irreversible transfer of cultural allegiance and identity to the receiving country. Part of this myth of temporary exile, held and cherished by some diasporic groups, has been the dream of "going back," the return to one's roots. Increasingly, modern tourism apparently offers an easily accessed and temporary mechanism for going back to a Chinese "homeland" and seeking to discover and explore authentic Chinese identity. This article focuses on the possibilities of diasporic reconnection through tourism and specifically the role of heritage tourism encounters in an ethnic homeland from which some have been separated for long periods, and others have never seen. It explores theoretical and empirical issues attached to diasporic identity and "homecoming" tourism, using case study data collected from Chinese diasporic tourists from Sarawak on a package tour of China. In presenting the results, the analysis adopts a dual interpretative approach to heritage that evolved from the data analysis, in which it was decoded by the tour party members as both observations of the quotidian cultural activities and values of the Chinese people, and observations of the selective constructions of public culture provided and promoted by public agencies. The two perceived aspects of heritage generated contradictory responses within the tour party that were partly a reflection of perceptions and judgments about the intrinsic features of things observed (e.g., their authenticity and social acceptability). They were also due to differences in the backgrounds of members of the diasporic party in terms of language resources, span of generational residence in Sarawak as emigrants from China, and religion.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 9, 2013

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  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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