Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for East Asian Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: The Visual, Truth and reconciliation
Secondary Theme: Resistance
The growth of new media practices in the realm of heritage projects has led to increasing concerns around the ways in which indigenous imaginaries can and should be conveyed, interpreted, and disseminated by institutions and native communities. (Pink, 2001; Ginsburg et al, 2002; Abu-Lughod, 2004; Kalay et al, 2007; Cameron et al, 2007; Hennessy 2012). Participatory video projects and local media practices in China stand to open spaces for alternative narratives and representations of indigenous life within context-specific ethnic minority regions such as Southwest and Northwest China. These approaches raise a number of concerns that are not specific to, but complicate, the Chinese context, namely questions of power, agency, and ownership. How are community and participation framed in minzu - or ethnic - media production in China?How is heritage or local knowledge shaped and given value by power and broader discourses? Alongside rising incomes and greater access to media technologies across the country, a call to "record and preserve" (jiluyubaohu) heritage has been propagated by government officials, local culture workers, and amateur filmmakers alike. What kind of adaptations and shifts are entailed when preservation is carried out through media technologies? And might we rather think of these instances as cultural production, more implicated in transformation than in upholding stasis? Both state sponsored media artefacts as well as those by minority producers claim to preserve heritage, but often with divergent goals. When members of a community engage in preserving culture, is this a form of resilience? Are those behind the camera part of the community 'self' that is being captured? Are self-representations necessarily resistant to dominant discourses? At bottom, what difference does it make when those engaged in self-representations are minorities long figured as the object of a dominant, often exoticizing and othering gaze? Even though groups have been experimenting with community-based participatory media production in China since 1990, the level of "collaboration" and the definition of "community" remains debatable, as does the question of othering the self.
This panel critically engages the poetics and politics of media by and about ethnic minorities in China by examining native/local/indigenous produced media such as documentaries, digital archives and works of literary fiction. Jenny Chio analyzes case studies of participatory video training and community documentary projects in Yunnan and Qinghai. Aynur Kadir evaluates traditional and political protocols for digitally mediated Intangible Cultural Heritage in Xinjiang. Based on a close reading of consumption of "village videos" (Chio 2012), Luo Yu examines community belonging and motivations for preservation. Darren Byler develops an analytic for understanding the role of heritage in the writing and reading practices associated with Uyghur short fiction. Together the panelists aim not only to unpack community involvement, documentation and management of cultural heritage, but also to ask what these processes do to community formation and identity. Drawing upon deeply-situated experiences of making, observing and researching community media practice, this panel seeks to understand the socio-cultural process, protocols and consequences of the participatory paradigm for minzu media production in China.