These Days, These Homes: Domestic Aesthetics, Gendered Modernity, and Filming Futures in “Minority” China

Talk by Jenny Chio, University of Southern California

In a period of massive state-sponsored urbanization projects across China, during which entire rural villages have been relocated and resettled in planned residential communities, what does home look like these days? Rather than begin with the categories of village and city, or the concepts of rural and urban, what might happen to the analysis of urbanization and modernization if we instead focus attention on the idea, the space, and the aesthetic of home? After all, in the transition “from village to city,” the experience of the city is the negotiation of home, family, and futures. Nowhere in China, perhaps, are the intersecting forces of urbanization and modernization felt as deeply, and as publicly, as in rural (or formerly rural) ethnic minority regions, where exhortations to both maintain tradition and become modern are lived less as a contradiction and more as a quotidian condition. The image of home – and the making of images that not only reflect but define and constitute home – thus encapsulate the experience and aspirations of urbanizing ethnic China. This talk will draw upon footage and observations from my current ethnographic portrait film project, These Days, These Homes, for which I have been filming two Miao women in and near the small city of Kaili, Guizhou province, as their lives have occupied different homes – some in the village, some in the city, and some in between – over the past decade. The aesthetics of home, from the rough edges of a peri-urban makeshift farmstead to the shiny surfaces of a newly finished high-rise apartment, allow for an analytics of urban experience and rural reality in ethnic China today.

Jenny Chio
is a cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. Her publications include the books A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (2014) and Mapping Media in China: Region, Province, Locality (co-edited with Wanning Sun, 2012). She has also published numerous journal articles and book chapters on vernacular media, cultural heritage, and social transformations in rural, “minority” China, including a new article in Asian Anthropology on bullfights and bullfight videos in Southwest China.

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Published: Thursday, February 21, 2019