Language on the Move proudly presents another new PhD!
Dr Xiaoxiao Chen graduated from Macquarie University last week. Her PhD was awarded for her thesis about “Opening China to the Tourist Gaze: Representations of Chinese People and Languages in Newspaper Travel Writing since the 1980s.”
Since its opening up in the 1980s, China has become a major international tourist destination. This study examines the ways in which China has been represented as an international tourist destination since the 1980s both in tourism discourses emanating from the West, represented by travelogues from the New York Times (the NYT), and from within China, represented by travelogues from China Daily (CD).
Building on Said’s critique of Orientalism and applying the analytical toolkit of critical multimodal discourse analysis, the study reveals that Chinese people under the tourist gaze are represented in only a small number of ways: first and foremost, Chinese people are represented as destination scenery, appearing as symbols of timelessness, human circumstances, and objects in both newspapers. Meanwhile, there are different sub-themes in the two newspapers that fit together in framing Chinese people as scenery. In the NYT, ordinary people are portrayed as the ‘exotic’ touristified Other, faceless masses, and differentiated communities. In CD, they are depicted as cultural performers, community representatives, and displayers of ethnic costumes. Second, if presented as engaging in interactions with tourists, Chinese people are shown to be endowed with the subservient character of helpers, being cast in the roles of informants, guides, hosts, and servers. Third, in the NYT only, they are sometimes reversely represented as ‘foreigners’ in their own country who are portrayed as overtly reacting to American visitors. Another way to construct China as simple, exotic, and inferior is through the representation of its linguistic landscape, which is characterized as homogeneous, incomprehensible, lacking English, and lacking correct English.
Overall, the study demonstrates that contemporary travel writing in English, irrespective of whether it emanates from the USA or from China, contributes to the continuation of Orientalist discourses that represent Chinese people and China’s linguistic landscape as signifiers of the Other to be consumed by Western tourists.
The full text of the thesis is available for download here.