High Times: Dali and the Politics of Lifestyle Migration

sigley_smallCentre for Contemporary Chinese Studies Seminar Series – University of Melbourne

Dr Gary Sigley, The University of Western Australia

5.30pm, Thursday 28 May 2015
Room 321, Level 3, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, University of Melbourne

Dali is an ancient town in Yunnan Province nestled between the shores of Erhai Lake and the Cangshan Mountains. It sits on the crossroads of important trading and migration routes, including the Southern Silk Road and Ancient Tea Horse Road. For many centuries Dali, having been firmly incorporated into the Chinese dynastic empire since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), has been a conduit for the movement of people, commodities and ideas. Even so, Dali has maintained the status of being ‘on the periphery’, part of China’s extensive ‘borderlands’. During the Maoist period (1949-1976) when China’s borders were closed and internal movement strictly regulated, Dali and the surrounding region became known as an ‘isolated and backward’ region.  Yet as the transport infrastructure and domestic economy began to develop and expand with the onset of ‘reform and openness’ Dali’s fortunes radically changed. Its status as an ‘exotic’ tourist destination brought hordes of foreign and domestic tourists. More recently Dali has become one of the major sites in China for lifestyle migration, that is, the migration of people from other parts of China (and from other parts of the globe). Whilst these migrants come in many forms and from different social and class backgrounds they generally have one thing in common: they are seeking to escape the pollution, congestion and stresses of modern urban life. A good proportion are also seeking out new forms of community and meaning, alternatives to the consumerist and party-state dominated mainstream. This seminar, part of a project on ‘Yunnanese modernity’, provides an introduction and preliminary analysis of this mode of lifestyle migration and the community/communities it is creating.

Gary Sigley is an Associate Professor in Asian Studies at The University of Western Australia. Gary’s recent research interests focus on social change in Yunnan Province with a particular interest in the cultural heritage of tea and the so-called ‘Ancient Tea Horse Road’. For more information refer to his blog at: http://www.chinawatch2050.com
Admission is free however RSVP is essential to china-centre@unimelb.edu.au
Please see http://chinastudies.unimelb.edu.au for more details.