Truth and Indigenous Cosmopolitics in Shangrila

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Kolås, Åshild (2017) Truth and Indigenous Cosmopolitics in Shangrila, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 18(1): 1–20.

As this article shows, cadres involved in the ‘discovery’ of Shangrila in Yunnan were well aware of the fictional origins of the name. In arguments for changing the name of Zhongdian county to Xianggelila, scientific facts were coupled with literary truths about the Shangri-La of the 1930s novel Lost Horizon, grounded in material reality. In their efforts to make Shangrila meaningful locally, cadres associated Shangrila with the hidden land of Shambhala, appealing to a spiritual reality ultimately knowable only to visionaries. We can thus talk about three different logics of truth (scientific, literary and visionary) and two different realities (material and spiritual) of concern to the ‘making up’ of Shangrila.

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Åshild Kolås

Åshild Kolås

Research Professor