Mobility and Cultural Authority in Contemporary China

Pal Nyiri

  • Published: 2010
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Anthropology; Travel
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Chinese citizens are becoming increasingly mobile, both inside China and abroad, as migrant workers, tourists, and students. China is caught between perceived benefits and dangers posed by mobility, complicated by the government's own conflicting impulses to support and discourage it. Mobility and Cultural Authority in Contemporary China demonstrates this intricate balance through an in-depth look at patterns of migration and state response.

Pál Nyíri argues that the loosening of China's restrictions on internal and international migration, its promotion of domestic tourism, and its increasingly positive portrayal of migrants all follow a similar logic in which mobility comes to epitomize a new and modern China. Yet the loosening of administrative control is compensated by the imposition of cultural control over how mobility is represented and how mobile citizens make sense of their new experiences, as well as by continued restrictions on types of movement that are seen as undesirable.

With ever-growing popular and academic scrutiny of the topic of national and international migration, this compact, engrossing, and timely study is well poised to be read widely by scholars interested in globalization, nationalization, modernization, tourism, and modern China.
Pál Nyíri is professor of global history from an anthropological perspective at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Among his publications are Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority and, with Joana Breidenbach, Seeing Culture Everywhere, from Genocide to Consumer Habits.

1. Internal Migration in Reform China
2. International Migration from China
3. Tourism in Contemporary China
4. The Usefulness of Mobility Producing Modern Citizens
5. The Dangers of Mobility Disciplining the Traveler
6. Conflicting Impulses Mobility Encouraged and Hindered
7. Conclusion Mobility and Cultural Control


"Appealing to a broader audience of non-China specialists who have been interested in considering mobility in similar ways. . . the book will also appeal to its more direct audience of China scholars working on migration, tourism, leisure and cultural studies."
-Tim Oakes, The China Journal, July 2011

"The audacity of many of the points make you think and force you to look at the world through the eyes of China's fresh global citizens. . . . Required reading for anybody with a serious interest in culture, modernity, and the Chinese nation in the twenty-first century."
-Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This ambitious book...yields refreshing insights about how diverse forms of travel . . . similarly reinforce the authority of the Chinese state to determine the meaning of mobility for the modern Chinese citizen. Clearly written and accessible."
-Arianne M. Gaetano, Journal of Asian Studies, May 2011

"Communist China delicately balances its own conflicting impulses to support and discourage such mobilization by apparently loosening its restrictions on internal and international migration while still tightly regulating the promotion of domestic leisure industry with what Nyiri sees as a type of 'indoctritainment.' Summing up: Recommended."