Two essays of mine have just been published! The first, a book chapter on Yunfest and the act of translating rural experiences into an urban film space, is a part of the volume Chinese Film Festivals. I'm really pleased to have my chapter included in this book, not the least in order to situate an analysis of the work and experiences of rural, amateur filmmakers in China alongside studies more mainstream and more well publicized film industry professionals.
The second publication is a "think-piece" commentary for Cultural Anthropology on using/including media elements in anthropological publishing, and what journals and scholars can do to help guide this process. Without insisting on hard and fast guidelines, I think we can create space and practices to foster more creative and critical media work. This essay is meant as a conversation starter -- and a way to highlight some of the recent projects launched by Visual Anthropology Review, Cultural Anthropology, and others.
2017 has started with...a lot of work to do. Luckily, I have a few talks coming up to give me some motivation and focus on thinking through some of my arguments and ideas. Thanks to the department of Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, and the Asia Centre, University of Sussex, I'll be in the UK for a week giving three talks and screening my film -- I am really looking forward to this opportunities to work on and work out some of my current thoughts, and get some much needed input and feedback.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
University of Sussex Asia Centre Seminar
"Media and the Rural Modern: Participatory Video and Documentary as Development in Rural Ethnic China"
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Anthropology of Tourism and Travel Colloquium
SOAS, University of London
"Archetypes of Ethnicity: Architecture and Expectations in China's Ethnic Tourism"
Wednesday, March 15, 2017: Two events
SOAS, University of London
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Ethnographic Film Series
Screening: 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness
Anthropology Departmental Seminar
"A Yao Self, a Miao Portrait: Two Moments of Filmmaking in 'Minority' China"
Details on the exact location and time of the events can be viewed through the links, along with abstracts of my talks to be held at SOAS. More updates and images to come!
I recently gave a public talk on my ethnographic film-in-progess as part of the Morphomata Lecture series at the University of Cologne, Germany, where I am a Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year. As the theme of the fellowship year is "Figures of Image Control," for the past semester we have been discussing questions of biography as representation, portraiture and human experience, and the differences between image-based and text-based modes of depicting, describing, and interpreting human experience. The interdisciplinary group of fellows, coming from fields as diverse as Ancient History, Classics, Archaeology, and Modern German Literature (as well as Anthropology), has motivated me to think more concretely and conceptually about the possibilities of portraiture in ethnographic research and film-making. My lecture addressed some of the methodological and theoretical issues I am working through as I develop my second ethnographic film project, which will be a portrait of two Miao women from Guizhou, China, and is currently titled "These Days, These Homes." An audio-recording of my talk is available online through the Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies website.
Listen to my public lecture here [scroll down to "Audio Recordings"]
I came across this really generous and thoughtful review of my book, A Landscape of Travel, written by Zhen Wang, a visiting scholar at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, in Munich, Germany. I really appreciate Zhen's careful reading of the book, and the fact that she sees how the case studies of Upper Jidao and Ping'an villages speak to much wider and bigger changes happening across rural and ethnic minority regions of China. What I describe and analyze in these two villages is so much a part of a larger pattern and shift not only in the lives of village residents (who may or may not be interested in "doing tourism") but also in the way rural and ethnic identities are discussed and imagined throughout the country, by government officials, by tourism developments, and of course by rural and ethnic people themselves. It's really rewarding to see my research reaching scholars in disciplines other than anthropology too, and particularly to scholars in environmental studies because, as I try to show, tourism has everything to do with questions of landscape -- social and natural.
Thanks to the support and enthusiasm from Social Anthropology and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, I'll be screening my film for a class on visual cultural and anthropology, and giving two talks in early November there as part of the China Studies Seminar and the Cambridge University Social Anthropology Society [CUSAS] seminar series.
Details on each of the talks:
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
China Research Seminar
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Title: The Festival Crowd: Ethnic Body Politics and Vernacular Media Practices in 'Minority' China
Thursday, November 3, 2016
Division of Social Anthropology
Title: Designing Development: Spectacle and Power in a Chinese Ethnic Tourism Village
Both of these talks are based on field research in Guizhou and ideas I've been working on recently, and I'm really looking forward to discussing them with China studies and anthropology audiences across the university.
A new review of my book, A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China, is now out in the latest issue of American Anthropology (volume 118, issue 3), written by Yujie Zhu, a specialist on tourism and cultural heritage in China.
In his review, Zhu summarizes some of the central arguments of my work. He writes that in my analysis, "The integration of mobility and visuality adds texture and complexity to the question of how ethnic tourism becomes commonplace in the daily lives of Chinese ethnic minority villages....More importantly, tourism not only affects villagers as an impetus of economic development but also becomes a new form of culture that influences the local value system, expectations, and visions of life."
I am really grateful for the continued attention that my book is receiving from anthropologists, tourism scholars, and China studies scholars. Tourism as a form of development continues to be promoted throughout rural, ethnic minority regions of China, and it's vital to maintain a long-term research perspective on the impacts that tourism may have on local lives and livelihoods. Equally, I think it's critical to keep an eye open to the other, emerging opportunities and ambitions that rural ethnic Chinese villagers may want to pursue, particularly given the national push towards rural urbanization in many regions and changing patterns of labor migration throughout the country.
I learned today that my film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness, has been selected for screening at the 2016 Ethnographic Film Festival "Kratovo," organized by the Macedonian Ethnological Society. The festival will take place at the end of September to early October in Macedonia, and the program features films by anthropology students and scholar-filmmakers from across Europe as well as overseas. Although I'm not able to attend the festival, I'm excited to be a part of the event and hope to be able to Skype in for q&a.
Later this year, I will be taking up a one year fellowship at the Morphomata Center for Advanced Studies, at the University of Cologne, Germany. Naturally, I'm very excited and grateful for this opportunity to spend a dedicated year at a humanities-focused research center, where I'll be working on my next film project, "These Days, These Homes." Given that the theme of the research year will be life writing, biography, and portraiture, I look forward to dialogues and conversations with the other fellows about the processes and practices of representing life experience and life histories through visual arts, film, and/or text.
For a bit more information about the film project I'm working on, see my previous blog post here.
For two weeks, my film 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness, can be watched online as a part of Cultural Anthropology's Screening Room (Visual and New Media Reviews). The feature also includes an extended interview, in which I talk about my fieldwork on ethnic tourism in rural China, and how I see filmmaking as a part of my ethnographic research and anthropological scholarship. Thanks go to Patricia Alvarez and Berkeley Media for making this happen -- it was a really productive opportunity for me to reflect on how ethnographic filmmaking as a process can inform, and ideally deepen, one's analysis and insights from fieldwork.
To watch the film and read the interview, CLICK HERE.
The new year has started with a rush! At Emory, I'm excited to be teaching my China anthropology course again, which has been updated with some new materials and will feature a guest lecture by two Chinese scholar-filmmakers from Yunnan in April. I'm also running a new graduate seminar, "Heritage and Power" with a great, multi-disciplinary group of students from across the university.
Moreover, I've just settled the dates for a number of public talks, seminars, and film screenings over the course of the spring in Montreal, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The dates and titles are below, and further details will follow:
February 15, 2016
Digital Ethnography and Community Media
Graduate Seminar, Concordia University
February 16, 2016
Buffalo, Wrangler, Videographer: Vernacular Media and the Afterlives of Bullfights in Southwest China
Public Talk, Global Emergent Media Lab, Concordia University
March 5, 2016
农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness
Film screening and discussion, USC-RAI Ethnographic Film Festival in Los Angeles, Center for Visual Anthropology, University of Southern California (USC)
March 7, 2016
These Days, These Homes: The Process of a Film-in-Progress
Graduate Seminar, Center for Visual Anthropology, USC
March 11-25, 2016
Cultural Anthropology Screening Room (Online)
Review and filmmaker Q&A with online access to my film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness
April 2, 2016
Collaboration and Power: The Politics of Community Media in China and Taiwan
Roundtable discussion, Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Seattle
April 4, 2016
Documenting Development in China: Community Media in Tibetan Qinghai
Screenings and discussion of community media projects from Qinghai, China, Center for Chinese Studies, UCLA
April 5, 2016
From Our Eyes: Community Media and Visual Ethnography in China
Screenings and discussion, East Asian Studies Center and the Department of Anthropology, USC
May 19, 2016
All Together Now: Ethnic Crowds and Vernacular Media in 'Minority' China
Culture, Power, and Social Change Seminar, sponsored by Anthropology and the Center for Chinese Studies, UCLA
June 19-22, 2016
Participatory Modernity: Vernacular Media in Ethnic China
Paper presentation in a panel, "From Whose Eyes, In Whose Name? Interrogating Rural Media, Anthropological Knowledge, and Ethnographic Expertise in China and Taiwan," accepted for the 2016 Society for East Asian Anthropology Conference in Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Visit my academia.edu page for a full list of past conference papers and other work.