Accepted Paper:

Visualizing love and desire: Personal and national vulnerabilities at the Chinese Russian border  
Elena Barabantseva (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Reflecting on my audio-visual explorations of the state-sponsored performance of love and desire at the annual group wedding celebrations on the Chinese-Russian border, this paper explores the role of national and personal vulnerabilities in identity politics.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2011 an annual 'International group wedding ceremony' takes place in the Jiayin town on the Chinese side of the Heilongjiang river that marks the international border between China and Russia. Held on the Chinese lunar 'St Valentine's Day' (qixi jie) that falls on a date in August, the event's official goal is to promote closer relations between the Chinese and Russian people and to create opportunities for informal contacts across the border. In my attempt to understand what motivates this curious lavish event in a remote part of China, I embarked on a visual ethnographic journey to observe and document this occasion in 2018.

In this paper I reflect on my position as a native Russian speaker and filmmaking researcher making sense of the International group-wedding event. The ceremony reflected deep-seated Chinese national insecurities and a sense of racial inferiority, which became tangible through the contrasting moments of performativity in front of the camera and moments of confidence and silence when the camera was put to the side. I argue that the international group wedding celebrations mask and express Chinese national vulnerabilities shaped by the enduring collective memory of 'national humiliation'. Navigating my filmed footage and a life trajectory as a UK-based researcher of China coming of age in the post-Soviet era, I ponder whether my personal and Chinese national vulnerabilities and desires have something in common?

Panel P26c
Empirical art: Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice
  Session 1