My research and teaching interests focus on culture and society in the People’s Republic of China; contemporary rural livelihoods and development; tourism, identity, and forms of cultural representation; and documentary image studies. Broadly speaking, my current projects aim to explore the intersections between mobility, modernity, and media in China’s cultural politics.
Since 2006, I have been conducting fieldwork in two rural, ethnic minority villages in southwestern China, with a particular emphasis on exploring the impact of tourism on intra-village social relations, individual conceptualizations of self, and local understandings of travel and modernity. In my forthcoming book, A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (University of Washington Press, 2014), I address the shifting significance of migration and rural mobility, the visual politics of tourism and photography, and the impact of touristic desires for exotic difference on village social relations and rural, ethnic subjectivities. My ethnographic film, 农家乐 Peasant Family Happiness, addresses some of these issues and can be previewed online (vimeo.com/jennychio). In 2003, I made a short film on the representation of ethnic minorities in Chinese ethnographic films from the 1950s and 60s, titled Film the People.
More recently, I have started a new project about amateur media production, ethnic identity, and social transformation in rural China. I am particularly interested in contemporary practices of videography in rural Guizhou and Yunnan and in ethnographically exploring the epistemological relationship between media literacy and modernization. I am also collaborating with Dr. Luke Robinson, a scholar of Chinese film and media, on Chinese independent documentary film, the Yunnan Multi Culture Visual Festival, and post-socialist public culture.