I am a cultural anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, and I am an associate professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures and Anthropology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA. My work explores the cultural politics of ethnicity, media-making, and rural development in contemporary China. I draw from critical heritage studies an approach the study of heritage from multiple perspectives: as an industry closely tied to tourism development (the topic of my earlier work), as a discourse that both reveals shared social relations and conceals racialized inequities, and as strategy that is leveraged in global geopolitics.
As a Humboldt Research Fellow at CARMAH, I am extending my research interests on Chinese development and modernization into the German context, beginning with a case study of the impacts and affects of China’s Belt and Road infrastructural investments in the port city of Duisburg. I am particularly interested in the theoretical and conceptual intersections between critical heritage studies, infrastructure studies, and post-industrial conditions. A further dimension of this research is a collaborative exploration of the aesthetics and politics of eco-city developments in Southeast Asia, many of which are financed by Chinese capital and constructed alongside regional infrastructure projects such as the Kunming-Singapore railway.
My previous scholarship on cultural heritage, tourism development, and rural social transformations in two ethnic minority villages in southwest China includes an open-access book (A Landscape of Travel, 2014, University of Washington Press), along with an ethnographic film (Peasant Family Happiness, 2013, distributed by Berkeley Media). More recently, I have published extensively on vernacular videos and participatory media-making in rural ethnic Miao, Baiku Yao, and Tibetan communities in China, which has been the focus of my research since 2010. I also write about new approaches in ethnographic film, visual anthropology, and practice-based research. I hold a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley (USA) and an MA in visual anthropology from Goldsmiths College (University of London, UK).