Special Feature – “A Distinct Postcolonial and Postmodernist Identity”

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In survey studies, when residents are asked about the benefits and costs of liberalizing gambling, one of the complaints has been the erosion of local identity.

MB August 2021 Special report | Casino tourism: the pros and cons


This is probably one of the less predictable or visible effects, but some would say that “tourism plays an important role in the political, cultural and socio-economic dimensions of the life of the people of Macau, putting the notion of identity in the foreground ”.

Ivy Lai-Chu Lou is a local researcher who studies the transformations of local identity since the handover. She is the lead author of an article titled The awakening of Macanese identity: the impact of Chinese tourism abroad (2018).

In the case of Macao, she has no doubts: “Tourism profoundly affects the spatial, social, political and economic order by reconfiguring leisure spaces, political discourse and geopolitical imaginaries.

Lou, who received his PhD in Creative Industries from Saint Joseph University in 2015, believes that “unlike the colonial experience in Hong Kong, the people of Macau tend to be ambivalent about their identity.”

She explains that before the handover, “they did not fully accept Portuguese culture and the cultural icons had not been used for commercial purposes”. But, at the same time, “the preservation of colonial heritage in Macau has become increasingly important as it transforms into a tourist city where culture is a key part of planning.”

“The inhabitants live the process of awakening their new identity and preserving heritage and history” – Lou & Xie

The Macau-based researcher, together with Philip Feifan Xie, Bowling Green State University (US), says that “fueled by its booming casino business, [Macau’s] the cityscape has been transformed and various relevant terms such as cultural syncretism and the Portuguese chromosome have been debated as a possible new identity under the strong influence of tourists from mainland China.

Now, she argues, while “developing a strong sense of attachment to their territorial space, the people of Macao are going through some sort of awakening process to form a distinct postcolonial and postmodernist identity.”

Ivy lai chu lou

This is visible in the fact that “the locals show an appreciation for the cultural heritage left by the Portuguese while emphasizing the preservation of heritage and culture in this small town”.

According to Lou, “tourism is a direct cause of the emergence of the new identity, mainly constructed in opposition to mainland Chinese tourists.”

This means that since the transfer to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, “Macao’s collective identity and status have steadily changed.”

The old identities of being Portuguese or Macanese “have been almost eclipsed”, but also the predominant local Chinese culture, Cantonese language and attachment to the place “feel the pressure of the influx of tourists as well as the development of tourism” .

Lou and Xie believe that “the locals are experiencing the process of awakening their new identity and preserving heritage and history”, and that this new identity “is largely attributed to the impact of Chinese tourism abroad. “.

Across the border, two Chinese academics have just launched an article titled Construction of the national identity path for residents of Hong Kong and Macao under “One country, two systems”.

Qingxiang Feng and Lijun Chen discuss some commonalities with Ivy Lai-Chu Lou, namely their argument that “under ‘one country, two systems’, the path of national identity of residents of Hong Kong and Macao does not copy nor the continental national identity model. nor apply the Western national identity scheme, it is therefore necessary to build a new identity path.

Yet, because the starting point of the two surveys is different, the two Chinese scholars believe that “in response to this realistic request, we should follow the organic combination of patriotic and family traditions and community interests, coordination between the national order and individual freedom, the coordination between constitutional responsibilities and historical missions, and the “one country” identity that transcends the ideological confrontation of “two systems”.


“A distinct place identity”

“In the case of Macao, the presence of an attractive cultural or historical environment is a major asset on which to develop a distinct place identity,” according to Australian researchers Verity Anne Greenwood and Larry Dwyer. However, they add, “there are gaps between the way visitors see the city and the image it wishes to project internationally and locally.” They point out that many creative cities around the world “emphasize both heritage and modern entertainment (eg London, Paris), so Macau does not face a choice” one. or the other ”between games, vacations and cultural heritage. “

Greenwood and Dwyer point out that “these submarkets can coexist and be developed together in a strategic marketing effort, undertaken as part of a theme of Macau’s evolution into a global tourism and leisure center.

“The importance of developing a dynamic brand image cannot be overstated in order to give Macau a distinctive identity. A successful branding campaign for the city of Macau, among others, will provide a framework for locals and non-residents to imagine and experience the place, ”they add.

It is for this reason that Greenwood and Dwyer suggest the development of a “Macao Brand”: “Its generation of a stronger and more user-friendly place identity is an essential process in the development of Macau away from its status as a machine. growth and is part of the creative urban agenda adopted in urban areas around the world. Recognizing and promoting a city’s identity encourages the diversity of cultural expression through design that recognizes the distinctive use of space, form and materials, fosters local pride, civic engagement and confidence, and stimulates tourism, investment, innovation, creativity, economic opportunity and community pride.

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