Research film by Dr Elena Barabantseva published
13 May 2018
Research documentary 'Border People' by Dr Elena Barabantseva, senior lecturer in Chinese International Relations and MCI affiliate, has been published in the Journal of Narrative Politics
Border People (2018, 15 min)
The official version of the Sino-Vietnamese border stresses the memory and legacy of the violent 1979 border war and the warm relations between national leaders. This dominant narrative of the border glosses over long-existing human connections and lifestyles characteristic of the area, which escape the binary analytics of national borders. Using visual anthropology techniques, this film explores the intimate geopolitics of the Sino-Vietnamese border through a personal story of a Yao woman Meihua who unofficially crossed the border from Vietnam to marry a Chinese Yao man Fucai. The film juxtaposes Meihua's story of married life in China with the stories and Yao ritual practices that the elders pass on to the young generation, on the one hand, and the local state's efforts to revive the Yao as an official ethnic minority in the Chinese multinational nation, on the other. The film ponders questions of how the border enters and shapes family relations and what it means for the Yao to, quite literally, inhabit the border in their daily lives. The film seeks to enable the Yao to express their versions of their own past and present and searches for the role that the state imagines for the Yao in its ambitious border development plans and ethnic revival strategies.