I've just released a "preview" of my work-in-progress second film, These Days, These Homes! With support from the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship (awarded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation), I've been working on the film all year and hope to have it finished in 2019. For a description of what I've been doing and what's coming next for the film, see my blog post on the Wenner-Gren website.
As of August 2018, I'm now based at the University of Southern California, as Visiting Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles took up most of the summer, but now the semester has begun at USC and it's full steam ahead. I'm excited to be teaching a First-Year Seminar titled "Nation, Culture, and Power in East Asia" as well as a graduate seminar on Media Ethnography and Chinese Visual Culture. USC has a vibrant visual studies and visual anthropology community as well, and I recently spoke as a discussant for the opening "back to school" event in the Visual Studies Research Institute, which featured talks on art and heritage politics by Sarah Hollenberg (University of Utah) and Peter Probst (Tufts University). In Spring 2019, I'll be co-teaching the visual studies graduate seminar with Nancy Lutkehaus (USC Anthropology), on cultural heritage, tourism, and art.
In other news, I was interviewed for a recently published article on ethnic minority restaurants in China, by Georgia Freeman, who has a cookbook on Yunnanese food coming out later this fall.
I was invited to write an afterword for this forthcoming special issue of the International Journal of Tourism Anthropology on film and the representation of "exotic others." The issue features a wide range of case studies of (mostly) documentary filmmaking projects across the Asia-Pacific region, and the authors analyze the multiple intersections between documentary film, tourism development, and the imagination of the other. Moreover, the essays in the issue question deeply how the representation of "otherness" is produced and practiced in touristic contexts.
In my afterword, I situate these case studies within broader anthropological debates on tourism imaginaries and visual anthropology. As my own work as an ethnographic filmmaker and anthropologist tries to show, the fundamental methodology of participation observation can and should be critiqued and challenged by concepts and practices of filmmaking and visual representation. Thus, I titled my afterword "filmmaking as critical participation observation" in order to illustrate what ethnographers (particularly those working in touristic contexts) can gain from taking film seriously in the practice and production of cultural representations.
Click on the image for a list of articles and abstracts from the issue!
I have a new book chapter out in the edited volume, Asian Video Cultures (Neves and Sarkar, eds., Duke University Press, 2017). My contribution explores video documentary making in rural ethnic China, and I argue that these films and filmmakers are contributing to the rise of a distinctly rural public culture.
The volume explores a wide range of video-making across East, Southeast, and South Asia, and I'm thrilled to be a part of the book. The introduction to the volume is available to read and download online here: AVC Introduction.
Two new essays of mine have been published in Critique of Anthropology, as part of a special issue I co-edited with Chris Vasantkumar exploring new anthropologies of rural society. My contributions examine architectural renderings of village residences as a constituent part of imagining rural modernity, as well as a short introductory essay on why it's (still) important for anthropology to think about and think through the idea of rurality as lived experience.
The full issue [37(4)] is now online!
As part of the traveling exhibition, Quilts of Southwest China, I have been invited to give a public lecture and to screen my film at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is a very exciting opportunity for me to connect my research on ethnic tourism and social change in rural China with the material culture practices and forms of knowledge transmission embodied in the region's embroidery and textile crafts. The film was also screened at the exhibition's first venue, in Indiana, earlier this year, but this time I'm grateful for the chance to engage directly with museum visitors and audiences.
The public screening and lecture will take place on Sunday, October 8, 2017, and on the following Monday, I'll conduct a seminar on contemporary conditions in ethnic minority China for museum docents. It's really energizing to be able to connect my work with the museum community in Santa Fe, and conversely I look forward to learning a lot about the textiles and objects included in the show.
UPDATE 9/28/2017: My film was awarded an honorable mention in the medium-long length film category at the festival. I was very pleasantly surprised by this recognition, especially in the context of a festival devoted to exploring the politics of cultural heritage in the contemporary world.
农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness (2013) was selected for screening at the 2017 Heritales: International Heritage Film Festival in Évora, Portugal, which takes place September 21-23. This looks like an exciting festival that is coordinated by scholars at the University of Évora alongside support from UNESCO, and I'm really looking forward to attending the films and discussion. It's been really motivating for me to have folks in the cultural heritage and museum studies worlds interested in my work this year, particularly because the question of "heritage" is one that is opening a lot of necessary, and challenging, conversations about power, domination, and control. I think it's important to tackle these issues from multiple angles, so I'm glad to have this chance to share my work and think about different perspectives at the festival next month.
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"]
Visit my academia.edu page for a full list of past conference papers and other work.