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Imperial vertigo and the themed experience: Yuanmingyuan and Disneyland compared

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This article compares the morphological structures of two parks: Disneyland and Yuanmingyuan, the “summer palace” of the emperor of China. Despite obvious differences, the two parks were intended for the entertainment of the sovereigns of their respective countries — the emperor of China and “the people” in the case of the United States. Both parks were also designed to bring ontological reassurance to the sovereigns of two empires that only recently had attained their hegemonic, imperial, status. The parks provided a vision of a universe organized according to each sovereign’s specifications. The need for reassurance is reflected in the morphology of the two parks: the use of techniques of dislocation and idealization; the model-making and the use of thematized environments. A study of the morphology of the parks is for that reason a study of imperial ideology.

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Issue: Volume 7, Issue 1, 2013