Solidarity or Realpolitik: Documentary Performance of Ethnic Relations in China

Colloquium | March 30 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Ying Qian, Assistant Professor, Dept. of East Asian Languages & Cultures, Columbia University

 Weihong Bao, Associate Professor, EALC, UC Berkeley

 Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

This talk discusses how ethnographic documentary films and their filmmaking processes constructed distinctions, formed ethnographic knowledge, and contributed to the changing relationships between the Chinese state and the minority peoples at its border. I focus on two historical periods – the Sino-Japanese War period when the KMT government attempted to wield further control over its border regions to support its war of resistance to Japanese invasion, and the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the CCP government initiated programs of rapid social transformations in the minority regions. Placing “scientific research films” made in late 1950s and early 1960s, alongside Shanghai filmmaker Zheng Junli’s documentary Long Live the Nation, completed in 1941 during the Sino-Japanese War, I complement textual analysis with oral histories, memoirs and historical documents to reconstruct the filmmaking processes, and argue that in both cases, documentary films were actualized by and actualizing power relationships between the state, local elites and filmmakers as the three parties engaged in concrete negotiations that went much beyond the images on the screen.