The cultural politics of recognition: Rural migrants and documentary films in China

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Chinese Cinemas, 2013, 7 (1), pp. 3 - 20
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The question of how China's rural migrants are recognized, in a political context that is dominated by the `zhu xuanlu'/`main melody' of social harmony, and in an economic environment that puts profit above social, cultural and morality concerns, is crucial to our understanding of the cultural politics of subalterneity. This article explores the ways in which the camera mediates the unequal relationship between the documentary film-maker and the rural migrant subject, and, in doing so, reveals a diverse politics of recognition. My aim is to understand how a particular politics of recognition has come to inform and shape the film-makers styles, aesthetics and themes. I situate this analysis within the larger politicaleconomic context of the production and consumption of documentaries. By closely engaging with some of the documentary texts, this article offers examples of a range of perspectives and narrative strategies in configuring the rural migrant figure.
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