This category contains 37 posts

The Window Washer As Chinese Culture

In the popular imagination “Chinese Culture” is something which emcompasses those different things which are unique to China. Chinese cultural things on display at tourist sites will likely include things like silk brocade, cloisonné, jade carvings, paper cuts, calligraphy and teapots. As a Nanjing taxi driver described to me last week there are also telling … Continue reading

Chinese Restaurant Menu, Chengdu Spring 1990

This morning while cleaning my office I happened upon a menu that I collected over twenty-five years ago in the spring of 1990 while studying in Chengdu, Sichuan. I don’t remember what restaurant it is from, but the fact that the first page lists Green Leaves Beer (绿叶啤酒) and that page two lists “guo kui” … Continue reading

Need Cash: Guangzhou, China

Walking along the street in Guangzhou yesterday evening I passed a scene of some folks at an ATM waiting for cash.

Roots of Chinese Culture Research Center

While walking in Chicago Chinatown I passed by a nondescript doorway in an old brick building. Next to three old doorbells was a small piece of white paper taped up with heavy layers of weathered scotch tape. On it were written the words: “The Roots of Chinese Culture Research Center” It was a great mystery … Continue reading

“Sing Red to Fight Darkness”: Chinese Urban Development as Apocalypse

“Yes, people are constructed by their material world, but often they are not themselves the agents behind that material world through which they must live” (Miller 2009: 84). “The apocalyptic describes not just the spilling forth of the unseen, but also of the undifferentiated matter of the possible, of what could have been and was … Continue reading

Xi Jinping Meets Che Meeting Mao

While the Chinese media featured a photo of Xi Jinping meeting a geriatric and ancient-looking Casto—the Chinese leader in a dark business suit clashing with the revolutionary’s casual retirement whites—Venezuela’s newspaper El Universal offered an entirely different image. It featured a photo of Xi face-to-face with an image of Mao meeting Che Guevara. One can … Continue reading

Selling Lucky Telephone Numbers in Shanghai

  “13661588868” “I want to bring forth wealth, wealth! I want fortune, fortune, fortuuunnneeee to arise! Let fortune flow!” While going through images on my office computer, I found some photos I shot in Shanghai quite a few years ago that I should post here to share. Following up on previous posts about lucky red … Continue reading

Adjusting Floor Numbers to Avoid Bad Luck in a Chengdu Hotel

When I teach Introduction to Anthropology I often like to use simple examples to relativise taken-for-granted categories. “Common-sense” examples usually communicate these the best—so I might talk, for example, about what categories of animal constitute food or how daily life is inflected by tiny habits, rumors or superstitions. I often mention, for example, lucky numbers … Continue reading

Fashion is Most Glorious!

Walking on Chunxi Lu in Chengdu I passed a full sized advertisement which draws upon the imagery and language of the Cultural Revolution. Featuring a worker, peasant, soldier trio the text plays on slogans common during the CR. The CR slogans I’m familiar with, but I’m a bit unsure about the exact translation of the … Continue reading

What The Photograph Takes, What the Photograph Misses

Fujiazhuang Beach in Dalian presents a dizzying array of of activities and actions, social and personal trajectories of participation and involvement—all jostling up against one another on a small strip of sandy shore. My first day there, as I walked its length I saw a huge group of Russian children having a squirt gun fight next … Continue reading


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