At the 2016 Association for Asian Studies meeting in Seattle, I will be a part of a roundtable discussion on Aboriginal and community media in China and Taiwan. I'm very excited that this has been accepted because it will provide an opportunity for Asia scholars to view new contemporary documentary films by ethnic minority filmmakers from both China and Taiwan. The event will feature visual anthropologists, film scholars, and media practitioners from Yunnan University, Yunnan Arts Institute, and Tainan National University of the Arts, and we intend to leave plenty of time for discussion and dialogue with audience members.
I will post details on the films to be shown when they are confirmed, but here is the panel abstract and the date/time. Hope to see many scholars of media, community development, and ethnic minority politics in Asia there!
Collaboration and Power: The Politics of Community Media in China and Taiwan
Saturday April 2, 3-5 p.m.
Washington State Convention Center, Room 615
This roundtable critically engages with the thorny questions of power, agency, subjectivity, and ownership that underlie contemporary community media projects. Our collective goal is to develop new approaches to understanding the socio-political contributions and consequences of community media in China and Taiwan. Prominent examples from China include the “China Villager Documentary Project” initiated by Wu Wenguang, as well as numerous projects in ethnic minority regions of Yunnan spearheaded by academics and development organizations. In Taiwan, community media has played a significant role in indigenous, labor, and other social-political movements for decades. Our session will begin with excerpts of recent documentaries from Tibetan communities in China and indigenous communities in Taiwan. These films are produced by first-time filmmakers through participatory video workshops, and the excerpts will be followed by brief comments from the discussants and a substantial period of open dialogue. Notions of collaboration, participation, engagement, and empowerment are often taken-for-granted as positive features of community media production, and we aim to unpack such prevailing assumptions by analyzing the effects of community media within the context-specific conditions of contemporary China and Taiwan. Can these films reflect or embody new social relationships and subject positions for rural, minority people in China and Taiwan? How does the emphasis on collaboration and participation in community media reinforce and reimagine existing power relations? What forms of empowerment and/or agency are possible, and what desires or possibilities might be overlooked or overshadowed in these projects? Anthropological filmmakers Chen Xueli and Li Xin, from China, will speak to shifting power dynamics between rural and urban Chinese in their experience as trainers in participatory video workshops as well as to the subjectivity of the “native” filmmaker. Film scholars Ray Jiing and Tony Tsai will reflect upon their work with community media programs in Taiwan and on the archiving, preservation, and future of these documentaries. Jenny Chio, anthropologist and filmmaker, will discuss the role of media in rural development and the idea of “participation” in neoliberal strategies of self-governance. Together, we will foster more critical perspectives on the entanglements of power, collaboration, and media production in marginalized communities today.