"The Disneyfication of China's Minority Foods"
"Ethnic Festival Boost Tourism in Rural China"
"A Close Look at Tourism's Impact in Rural China"
Emory eScienceCommons, 2014
Chinese Rural Tourism
Interview on BBC World News "Impact"
aired June 5, 2013 (watch above)
"No Early Harvest In China's Rural Tourism Push"
by Ben Blanchard, Reuters 2007
East Asian Languages & Cultures
University of Southern California
The Contest over "Indigeneity": Film and Ethnography in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
Sponsored by the Center for Experimental Ethnography,
University of Pennsylvania
Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies
University of Cologne
[watch my 2018 public lecture here]
[watch my 2020 public lecture here]
I am a cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker. In my research and teaching, I explore subjectivity, collective memory, and modernity, with an emphasis on understanding the shifting contours of race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage as powerful categories in the contemporary world. I investigate these issues through long-term ethnographic fieldwork on independent and vernacular media practices, urbanization and the transformation of rural landscapes and livelihoods, and cultural heritage tourism in the People's Republic of China.
My permanent position is as Associate Professor in East Asian Languages & Cultures and Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Previously, I taught in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University.
In May 2021, I am starting a new multi-part research project as a Humboldt Research Fellow, hosted by the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage at Humboldt Universität-Berlin. In Spring 2021, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Experimental Ethnography, University of Pennsylvania, where I taught a graduate seminar on portraiture as ethnographic methodology and curated an online film series on Indigeneity in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
I hold a PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley (2009). From 2009-2012, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Chinese media studies at the China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney. I also hold a MA in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2003).
My first book, A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (University of Washington Press, 2014), utilizes mobility and visuality as analytics for exploring the consequences of tourism development on social relations and individual senses of self in two rural, ethnic minority Chinese villages. In addition to my book, I directed and produced a film about tourism in the villages I study, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness. The film is distributed by Berkeley Media, LLC and has been screened widely at universities and anthropological film festivals.
Currently, I am engaged in a multi-sited research project on the lived experience of modernity in China's countryside through an ethnographic exploration of locally made amateur and semi-professional documentary videos. Vernacular media of this kind are ubiquitous across much of rural ethnic China. My research, thus far, has led me to investigate the intersections between media literacy, the politics of participation, and new imaginations of rural modernity and contemporary ethnic subjectivity. A portion of this research is published in the volume, Asian Video Cultures (Duke U Press). I am also interested in Chinese independent documentary film and film festivals, and I have published on the (now-defunct) Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival (Yunfest).
Alongside my research on rural media I am also working on a second ethnographic film, These Days, These Homes. This will be a portrait of two women from Upper Jidao village who have been integral interlocutors for over a decade. I am the recipient of the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ethnographic Film from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to support the completion of this film.
In the profession, I have served as an elected board member of the Society for Visual Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association. From 2016-2018, I was Co-Editor of Visual Anthropology Review, the journal of the Society for Visual Anthropology. I co-directed the SVA Film and Media Festival in 2013 and 2014, and served on the festival jury from 2014 to 2016. This has been an amazing opportunity to see the innovative range of ethnographic media being produced around the world and to help bring some well-deserved attention to this field of scholarship and inquiry.