The Ethnic Spectrum: online journal project for the Fall 2014 course "Ethnicity and Nationalism in East Asia"
As a part of my Fall 2014 course, "Ethnicity and Nationalism in East Asia," students edited, reviewed, and revised their essays, some of which are now published online. This journal publication project, which the students decided to title The Ethnic Spectrum, was an exercise in editorial decision making, drawing out and crafting themes out of individual essay topics, and participating in the academic peer review process as both an author and a reviewer. The first issue of our online journal can be read on our website, along with students comments. The second issue is going to be published in hard copy for the students, but abstracts of the essays and descriptions of the thematic sections are also available online. The students' work really shines through, I think, and I'm very proud to share the site as an example of the thoughtful, well-researched, and insightful undergraduate work here at Emory.
The Ethnic Spectrum: online journal project for the Fall 2014 course "Ethnicity and Nationalism in East Asia"
The 2014 SVA Film and Media Festival program is now online, complete with film abstracts, screening times, locations, and the winning films!
Check out our festival highlights here: 2014 SVA Film and Media Highlights
View the entire program online here: 2014 SVA Film and Media Festival Program
Or download a handy PDF copy here: 2014 SVAFF Program
We kickoff on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 with the Best Feature Film, In the Steppes of Genghis, directed by Mike Majoros. All screenings are open to the public, and I hope to that those attending the AAA Annual Meeting as well as others in the DC area will come watch a few films this December, engage with our filmmakers, and discover new films.
This year, as Co-Director of the 2014 SVA Film and Media Festival taking place during the AAA Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., I've been working with many others to organize some really exciting special events in addition to our already great film program. The special events include a special anniversary screening of Trinh T. Minh-ha's seminal work, Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), followed by a discussion with the filmmaker about feminist perspectives on ethnography and film. I'll moderate the discussion, and I'm really looking forward to bringing this important work back into conversation with anthropologists.
We're also featuring a roundtable discussion on the distribution of ethnographic films, featuring filmmakers, anthropologists, the director of DER (one of the most important distributors of anthropological films), and a specialist on film festivals. And, we've also arranged a screening of the director's cut of The Act of Killing (2012), and the filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer will be present afterwards for q&a.
All this means that the already packed AAA meeting schedule just got more full for all of us -- but I am really pleased to bring these events to DC and to foster more opportunities to think about, and think through, the relationships between film and anthropology. Check out the link above for full session details and descriptions!
I'm part of a great panel for this year's American Anthropological Association's Annual Meeting, which is taking place the first week of December in Washington, D.C. This panel focuses on understanding the politics of cultural commodification in China today, with a particular emphasis on the processes through which ethnic minority communities are being reformed as highly valued "resources" within larger state policies and developments. There will be three papers based on research from Yunnan, along with my paper on bull-fighting in Guizhou; details below. If you're planning on attending the meetings from beginning to end, please attend our session. I am really excited to talk about bull-fighting in Guizhou, which is a topic I've been working on for a few years now, and I am looking forward to gaining feedback from other anthropologists.
Session title: Consuming Culture, Reforming Place, and Personifying Value in China
Organized by Lara Kusnetzky
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Organized Chaos: Bullfights As Cultural Production and Ethnic Practice in Guizhou
Bullfights in southeastern Guizhou index Miao cultural vitality and ethnic identity in regional and national tourism campaigns, rural development efforts, and heritage preservation programs. To be clear, while the Chinese phrase for bullfighting is douniu, according to some Miao scholars, bullfighting should be called niudajia to emphasize that two water buffalo fight each other. As events, bullfights are tightly organized competitions, yet often erupt into chaos when the bulls charge their handlers or into the crowds. This paper explores how the organization of bullfights and the enjoyment of them have become ways in which contemporary Miao use local resources, including funds from private entrepreneurs, and local government agencies (such as regional bullfighting associations and cultural bureaus) to assert an ethnic, minority cultural identity within the context, or chaos, of ever-evolving state policies of cultural preservation and rural urbanization. Unlike the many tourism projects in this region, into which bullfighting (or images of) are often incorporated, bullfights remain largely produced for local audiences. By interrogating the politics of bullfights as cultural production and ethnic practice, this paper argues that the shared experience of watching, and enjoying, bullfights reflect and refract contemporary Miao identities in a region and era where distinctive forms of ethnic-ness and cultural-ness are increasingly marketed, promoted, and celebrated. Thus, from their organization, participants, and their ubiquity as video-recordings, bullfights engender what can be called “productive pleasures” and speak to ways in which culture and ethnicity are governed within current state projects to modernize, and urbanize, rural China.
One of the coolest things about having my book published is the chance now to discuss and reflect on my work through talks and public lectures. I really enjoyed presenting my work at Emory a few weeks ago to a very engaged audience of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Next week I'll give a public lecture at Hamilton College, in New York, about my research on ethnic tourism in rural China. Since my fieldwork in Upper Jidao and Ping'an villages began eight years ago in 2006, and these lectures are a great chance for me to update my findings and to reconsider some of the implications of what I've observed and analyzed.
The Labor of Leisure: Reconsidering the Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China
Friday, November 7, 2014
Website: Events Calendar Here
The UC Berkeley Tourism Studies Working Group was a crucial part of my PhD experience while I was a student, and I'm really thrilled to be invited back to screen my film with the group later this month. The TSWG has been running seminars and conferences on a wide range of topics related to critical tourism studies since 2003, and it has been a huge influence in fostering new research ideas and scholarship in the Bay Area. It's going to be great to go back to Cal and to meet the new group members. And as usual, events are open to all Bay Area scholars and students.
农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness screening and discussion
Friday October 24, 2014
2251 College Ave aka Archaeological Research Facility (next to Boalt Law School)
Thanks to a University Research Grant from Emory, I was able to travel to China this summer for a five-week-long trip to keep developing my new research project on rural media, with a particular focus on locally-based Miao videographers in and around Kaili, Guizhou, and the documentary films that are being produced by rural filmmakers through a community media project called "Eye of Villager" (乡村之眼), based in Kunming, Yunnan. There is simply so much media-making happening in these regions that the project is expanding in a lot of exciting ways, which I hope to think and write about over the next few months.
At the same time, I was also able to give copies of my book to some of the people who have helped me so much during that research, including people in Upper Jidao and Ping'an villages. It's eye-opening, always, to see how much these villages have changed in the past few years.
Here's a small gallery of my photographs, showing some of the things I'm looking at, and mulling over, now.
Visual Anthropology Review Issue 30 Number 1
Special Issues on new ethnographic film in China
Maris Gillette has edited a special issue of VAR, featuring five research articles and film reviews of recently completed ethnographic films about China directed by anthropologists: Writing in Water, by Angela Zito; Chaiqian/Demolition by J.P. Sniadecki; Broken Pots, Broken Dreams by Maris Gillette; Bored in Heaven, by Kenneth Dean, and my film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness. The issue provides a broad look across a range of filmmaking practices and subjects, as well as a sense of how extensively anthropologists have been using film and filmmaking as a means of ethnographic analysis and knowledge production, particularly in the context of contemporary China. My hope for this issue is that it will help spur more conversations about the how anthropological research can think through filmmaking, as a means of research and analysis.
My article, titled "Fieldwork, Film, and the Tourist Gaze: Making 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness" can be downloaded here. A thoughtful review of the film, by Laurie Kain Hart (Haverford College), is available here.
This week, I'll be in Boston at the American Ethnological Society Spring Meeting which is being co-organized with the Society for Visual Anthropology. There's a packed schedule of events, including film screenings, keynote lectures, and paper sessions, and I'm really looking forward to this event!
My paper will be on Friday, April 11, at 3 p.m. The title and abstract are below -- the session is a special "Media Makers" panel, with presentations that will feature substantial video and image-based work.
Looking like the real thing: Surfaces and stereotypes in ethnic tourism
Tourism to, and of, ethnic minority communities capitalizes on the experience of difference and, in particular, differences that can be experienced visually. This paper discusses the relationships between material, tangible surfaces and perceived (or anticipated) stereotypes in ethnic tourism in rural China. My aim is to move the analysis of imagery and representation in tourism beyond studies of tourist photography and the debates over authenticity, in order to consider the politics of appearance in ethnic tourism and the work involved in creating, maintaining, and presenting an ethnic reality that looks real to tourists. To do so, I draw on scenes and excerpts from my ethnographic film on tourism in rural ethnic China, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness (Chio dir. 2013), in order to illustrate how clothing, architecture, and other material surfaces are discursively understood by village residents as the real things that legitimate and demonstrate their ethnic distinction, and by extension their economic value, in the contemporary tourism industry. These surfaces are carefully crafted by village residents, tourism developers, and international development agencies to simultaneously meet and exceed existing stereotypes in a cyclical process of affirmation and appreciation, thus reinforcing Chinese state discourse of ethnic unity and global nostalgia for consumable heritage.