The third review of my book has just been published in the journal Anthropological Quarterly, and I'm so pleased to with how Noel Salazar (U Leuven) critically engages with my work. Given Salazar's own expertise in mobility and tourism studies (his book has been an important contribution to understanding tourism labor in a globalizing industry of networks and desires), it's really exciting to see how he pushes the broader connections and comparisons that my research can, and should, create for future projects, especially, as Salazar notes, given how invested the Chinese state has become in international cultural heritage projects and recognition (such as UNESCO site designation). This was the focus of the workshop on cultural heritage politics in China that I attended in Lund, Sweden, in June and a key aspect of my new project on rural documentary media production and circulation.
Travis Klingberg (U Colorado Boulder) has written an insightful review of my book, A Landscape of Travel, for the journal Pacific Affairs. In his review, he notes how my book extends and updates much of the earlier scholarship on ethnicity and tourism in China, as well as presenting new arguments on the intersections of mobility and development in rural China. Klingberg writes, "In highlighting the role of migrant subjectivities and labor, Chio has at the same time helped clarify the relationship between migration and tourism in China. The rediscovery of rural and remote China by urban Chinese has been a significant social and political change over the past two decades in China. This is a question that I have pursued in my own work. But mobilities of leisure and labour don’t map cleanly onto the schematic movement of urban tourists to rural China and rural labourers to urban China, and A Landscape of Travel is a valuable study of how closely related these mobilities are." Additionally, he also points out important comparative, future work that needs to be done on tourism in China -- in non-ethnic minority regions, for example, and also in the discursive deployment of "green" urbanization project or "ruralizing" urban spaces.
A preliminary version of the review is now available online and will be in the print version of the journal in a future issue. A PDF of the online version is also available here to download. I'm grateful for the time and attention to my work by Klingberg, and of course it's exciting to see my work being situated more deeply in the (relatively) small field of China tourism studies as well as across disciplinary perspectives.
In a few weeks, I'm headed to Lund University, Sweden, for a conference on cultural heritage in contemporary China, organized by Marina Svensson at Lund University. I'm contributing a paper on bullfighting in Guizhou (and Yunnan) to this event, and it's a challenge for me to think about this part of my research in the context of cultural heritage discourses as they circulate in and through China today. Clearly bullfighting has become emblematic of certain communities in rural ethnic China, and there is a lot of pride -- and money -- invested in promoting bullfighting as a unique, local practice. How these fights, as planned events and as moments of chaotic pleasure and entertainment for the audiences (as well as income for the organizers and owners), speak to subjective senses of ethnic difference and communitas, as well as to social-structural ambitions for recognition and rewards in China's ethnic tourism industry will be the focus of my presentation.
For a few photos of bull-fighting stadiums and other related phenomena, see my post from July 2014 .
Participation in and Observations on Community Media Training
This past March, I spent three weeks in Guangxi, attending and helping out with a community media training workshop. The program was collaboratively organized by a cultural heritage group based in Kunming that has extensive experience in rural video documentary and participatory media training, and a local Baiku Yao cultural heritage preservation group based in Lihu. It was my first time working directly with students and workshop participants, assisting them with the basics of field interviews and recording, documentary research, and editing on the fly. I was amazed at how dedicated all of the participants were and even more so by the fact that every group managed to complete a 20-30 minute long documentary in just 10 days.
This experience also gave me much greater insight into the values and politics of community media, especially when coupled with broader desires (and financial support) for cultural heritage preservation, rural development, and individual ambitions. There is a very active eco-museum, supported by the regional government, in this area too that has helped spur local recognition of the usefulness of digital media in cultural heritage work.
These Days, These Homes (work in progress)
Recently I've been thinking a lot about the video footage I shot over the past (nearly ten) years, and I've decided it's time to revisit this material and to try to create something new out of this "old" stuff. As I review the footage, I realize that part of what is so important, and interesting, about archival material (even if it's an archive of my own material) is precisely that with the passing of time and the changing of lives, I am seeing and discovering new meanings to this footage. I'm now starting a new film project, currently titled These Days, These Homes, that will draw on existing footage and some new video I plan to shoot over the next year. This film will focus on the stories of two women who have become important interlocutors and friends, and I hope this film will be as much a presentation of research arguments as it is a representation of our personal relationships and my gratefulness to them. I recently discussed this work in progress at the conference, Poetics & Politics: A Documentary Research Symposium at UC Santa Cruz. There, the conversations between a mix of makers and scholars from a range of disciplines pushed me to think about my new film in different directions, both formally and also socially as a means of research engagement and collaboration.
Last fall, I taught a course on ethnicity and nationalism in East Asia as a special topics class in Anthropology, and now I'm excited to have received a Course Development Grant to expand it further into a class that will also address race and racial discourses in East Asia for the East Asian Studies program at Emory (with a cross-listing Anthropology). In the Fall 2014 class, my students and I learned a lot from each other about dominant, social assumptions about race and racialized identity in the contemporary world, and it was eye opening for all of us to re-pivot our own gazes and expectations to the East Asian context, to question what is often taken for granted in discussions about what constitutes race and/or ethnic difference in a society and, just as importantly, what is similar across national contexts.
Here's the current description of this new class, Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in East Asia:
This course uses an anthropological perspective on race, ethnicity, and nationalism to ask: Is there such a thing as an “Asian” race? What are the theoretical foundations of race and ethnicity, and what is a nation in this contemporary era of globalization and multiculturalism? Why is nationalism potentially dangerous in some contexts and a source of pride in others? The goal is to introduce students to contemporary society and the politics of identity in China, Japan, and South Korea through the exploration of these questions.
Through analytical writing assignments and an independent research paper, we will interrogate the sociopolitical, cultural, and conceptual meanings of race, ethnicity, and nationalism in the context of East Asia. We will read contemporary ethnographic studies of racism and ethnic differences in East Asia as well as historical and theoretical studies that provide a broader context for understanding how race and ethnicity are differently conceived in Japan, China, and the Koreas. While the focus of the course will be on the contemporary context, we will also use historical texts on definitions of racialized differences in Japan and China from the early twentieth century. By investigating ethnic identity, national belonging, racism and racialized differences, and political (dis)unity in China, Japan, and South Korea, our aim is to build a broader perspective not only on country-specific conditions but also regional similarities and current disputes. In particular, readings will address the role and impact of economic growth, consumerism, memory and trauma, and migration on changing discourses of ethnicity, race, and the nation in East Asia.
The very first review of my book, A Landscape of Travel, was recently published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage! The review author's comments and feedback are insightful and productive in helping me think more expansively about the reach and scope of my research on tourism in ethnic minority, rural China, and how my work might speak to larger issues in tourism development and cultural heritage management in urban contexts as well. I'm especially excited that the author finds my book relevant across and beyond disciplinary boundaries.
Here's an excerpt from the review:
"Jenny Chio’s insights and methodological innovations...shake all our analytical certainties and reveal the necessity for an all encompassing integrated evaluation (surpassing the bipolar analysis of leisure-labour, migrant-tourism). This sounds as an invitation to all researchers on tourism, independently of their disciplinary background (anthropology, ethnography, geography, history, economics, architecture, cultural studies, heritage conservation, sociology, politics, etc.) to integrate the two major characteristics of tourism – that she identifies as visuality and mobility – and to investigate on their effects not only in relation to tourists but also with regard to the hosting societies."
Download it here:
2015 Chinese Environmental Film Festival
February 26-28, 2015
Full Screening Program
For three days at the end of February, I'll be in Greenville, South Carolina, attending the Chinese Environmental Film Festival organized by Professor Tami Blumenfield and the entire Asian Studies department at Furman University. This is going to be a fantastic event and a unique chance to see, and discuss, a range of films by Chinese and US-based filmmaker-scholars that all address questions of environmental change and its impact on society.
My film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness, will screen on Friday, February 27, at 7 p.m., followed by commentary and discussion with me, Professor Emily Yeh (Geography, U Colorado Boulder) and Professor Kate Kaup (Political Science, Furman University). I'll also be discussing the Chinese independent documentary, Beijing Besieged by Waste, earlier that day alongside Ralph Litzinger (Anthropology, Duke University).
This is a really exciting group of films and scholars that will gather in Greenville for the festival, and I'm so pleased to be a part of this important conversation about the relationships between Chinese society and environmental change. All events are free and open to the public.
In conjunction with Stanford historian Thomas Mullaney's course on Race and Ethnicity in East Asia (Winter 2015) and co-sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies, I'll be screening my film on campus on Friday, February 20, 2015, from 10-12:30. This public screening will be followed by a conversation between Professor Mullaney and me, and then open discussion with students and scholars, all which I am really looking forward to. It's been great to receive feedback and insights on my research from scholars across the disciplines, because it helps me to better understand and conceptualize my findings. And, of course, these discussions are very important ways for all of us to deepen our understandings of tourism and its consequences in the contemporary world.
Here are some details on the event (click on the link for more information and to RSVP):
农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness Stanford screening
Friday, 2/20/2015, 10-12:30
Lane History Corner, Building 200, Room 034
This is an amazing way to start to my year, and I'm hoping 2015 will be filled with opportunities to share my film and develop new ideas and projects!
As a part of my ongoing collaborative research with Luke Robinson, a film studies scholar of Chinese independent films at the University of Sussex, we've recently co-authored a short commentary about independent film festivals in China and the archival impulse that seems to motivate continued support and organization of these events, even as they have been cancelled and closed down in the past few years. Here's a short excerpt from our essay, which is now published online in Anthropology News:
"Occupying that grey area between the spirit and the letter of the law, independent Chinese film festivals have thus always been potentially subject to official interference....in 2012 [the Beijing Independent Film Festival] had its electricity supply “starved” during the opening night, and cut entirely a year later. Thus, while the suppression of the 2014 festival was particularly invasive, it was not unique. What was new was the confiscation of computers, files, and papers. Independent Chinese cinema has no official archive. Organizations like the Li Xianting Film Foundation have therefore become central to Chinese independent film culture not just as coordinating hubs for programs, but also as spaces of record: places to view and store films and to read publications about them. By targeting both the BIFF screenings and the Li Xianting Film Foundation collection, the Chinese authorities made an explicit connection between limiting the public exhibition of independent cinema and seizing control of the means to collect and preserve this body of work."
Read the full essay here. We are planning to continue this project through further research in China and interviews with filmmakers and festival organizers, in order to build a more complete portrait of the impact and influence of independent film culture in contemporary China.
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"
Visit my academia.edu page for a full list of past conference papers and other work.