“Ask Your Travel Agent for the Nirvana You Have Coming”: Shangri-la for Sale

By Judith Raiskin.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Travel advertisements are an ideal genre for analyzing the colonial desires that fuel modern global tourism. The Western myth of Shangri-la, a secret place of luxury and enlightenment, has been harnessed by an international tourist industry and attached by the Chinese government to a specific town in Yunnan, China. The myth of Shangri-la is not an innocent myth; it is a colonial story (once British) enacting a very real colonial project (now Chinese). I suggest that the current marketing of Shangri-la reanimates specific tropes found in travel ads for a variety of tourist destinations around the world; these ads exploit the tourist fantasy of stepping out of time, out of both modernity and the intractable process of aging and illness, a fantasy that reveals a particularly post-colonial idealization of conquered cultures. If we can identify the way cultural stories influence contemporary mass tourism, we can more fully explain the effects of specific images and beliefs on behavior and policy.

Keywords: Shangri-la, Travel, Tourism, Colonialism, Advertisements, China, Tibet, James Hilton, Lost Horizon, Utopia, Paradise, Time

Global Studies Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.51-66. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.370MB).

Prof. Judith Raiskin

Professor, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA

Judith Raiskin received her BA from the University of California at Berkeley, her MA from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University (1989). She is the author of the book Snow on the Cane Fields: Women’s Writing and Creole Subjectivity (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1996) and the editor of the Norton Critical Edition of Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea (1999). She is an Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Oregon where she teaches post-colonial theory, Caribbean and Pacific Island literature and travel writing.

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