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Village Videos and the Cultural Politics of Media in Rural, Ethnic China

A talk by JENNY CHIO (China Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
3:30 PM
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90007

In rural Guizhou province, there is a vibrant media world of video recordings of ethnic festivals and competitions. This talk explores the popularity of these “village videos,” which are made by semi-professional videographers who sell them locally in shops and markets. The content of village videos, ranging from ethnic festival performances to bullfights and other traditions, reimagine rural and ethnic identities by finding visual ways to represent rural sociocultural lives. As a form of nonstate media production, village videos indicate new attempts at local levels to make sense of national narratives and transnational expectations of ethnic identity in contemporary China.   

Unlike more recent, well-publicized rural video projects led by urban academics and filmmakers in China, the village videos addressed in this talk are created and consumed wholly in local terms, by local individuals for local audiences in the predominantly Miao region of southeast Guizhou. Village videos are significant both in terms of understanding mainstream Chinese desires for images of the Miao and the consumption of visual representations of ethnic identity. The processes of cultural production and cultural consumption are complicated in the case of village videos, where rural, ethnic peoples and communities utilize visual media as a means for asserting agency and belonging in national and international networks. Thus, village videos are a crucial site for exploring shifting loci of power at work in visualizing, and imagining, ethnic identity.


Jenny Chio is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the China Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney, where she is conducting research on rural media production in China. She is also editing an ethnographic film on rural, ethnic tourism in China titled Nong Jia Le: Peasant Family Happiness. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in May 2009, and she holds a Masters degree in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her research interests include documentary image studies, contemporary rural Chinese society, and critical approaches to theorizing mobility. She serves as an elected Board Member of the Society for Visual Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association.

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