1356827_Zhen,N_2023.pdf (7.14 MB)
Rural imaginaries in China's Three Gorges Region
journal contributionposted on 2023-11-22, 05:32 authored by Nahui Zhen, Sarah Rogers, Brooke WilmsenBrooke Wilmsen
In China, “rural” can signal backwardness, poverty, remoteness, and inferiority or, alternatively, a kind of utopia or idyll – an escape from urban pressures. Representations on screen can contribute to shaping an expectation of what the rural should be and thus play a role in facilitating interventionist policies and marginalising certain groups of people and certain activities. In this study we examine on-screen rural imaginaries of the Three Gorges region. We consider representations of rural places and people in the Three Gorges region in recent Chinese films, documentaries, and television shows, from 2005 to 2021. We examine key characters, stories, activities, and places and discuss underlying logics with reference to the dominant political imaginaries of contemporary rural China. Our analysis highlights how on-screen imaginaries are dominated by the urban gaze, and largely reinforce state imaginaries by rendering certain people, modes of farming, and activities invisible. Particularly in recent years, these profoundly limited imaginaries offer little space for alternative understandings of rurality and do discursive work with very real material effects.