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UNESCO’s placement of the large, multi-story communal vernacular buildings known as tulou (土楼, rammed earth building) on its World Heritage List, and the touristic development that followed, has produced great social transformations among the Hakka people of Southeast China who reside in these impressive dwellings. My research explores the impact of UNESCO-inspired tourism on community life in Hongkeng village (Yongding Hakka Tulou Folk Culture Village). In this brief essay, I explore the local reshaping of space and social relationships to illustrate the ways that heritage tourism transforms everyday life and local culture. My special interest in the larger project from which this essay draws is the ways that local people negotiate such transformations. The negotiation process involves local people adapting to the new heritage phenomenon and navigating situations of frequent cultural contact and regular conflicts of interest. On the one hand, heritage and tourism contribute to the museumification of local life and culture. Local government and natives consciously or subconsciously represent their identity and tradition as well as produce localness through the decoration and reshaping of local living space. On the other hand, heritage tourism activities result in new forms of social interaction that challenge local genealogical social structure and family relationships. In such circumstances, new modes and patterns of community interaction and local cultural practices are generated under the transformative forces of heritage and tourism. My investigations into the spatial, cultural, and social spheres of local life in Hongkeng aim to help understand the transformation of an indigenous community while it is engaging in (and with) heritage practices such as listing, landmarking, representation, historical recreation, cultural commodification, and touristic management.
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