Tourism and the Making of Place in Shangri-La

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Kolås, Åshild (2004) Tourism and the Making of Place in Shangri-La , Tourism Geographies 6(3): 262–279.

This article deals with the development of ethnic tourism in ‘Shangri-La’ and the concomitant reconstruction of the area as a ‘Tibetan’ place. It discusses how the area has been ‘sacralized’ in the process of incorporating it into the ‘sacred realm’ of Buddhist Tibet, how it has been ‘ethnicized’ in connection with the establishment of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and, finally, how it is currently also being ‘exoticized’ with the promotion of Diqing as a tourist destination and the renaming of one of its counties, Zhongdian, as ‘Shangri-La’. The paper explores the tensions between these various ‘place-making’ strategies, how ‘place’ is reinvented and how hegemonic interpretations of ‘place’ are contested. Theoretically, it brings together some contemporary perspectives on ‘place making’ from various different fields, including anthropological studies of place and identity, the political geography of territories and boundaries and studies of pilgrimage and religious geography.