My films explore high politics – US-China relations, empire in Asia, world order, international borders – through a close examination of personal experiences
In my first two decades as a professor, I worked mostly as a traditional academic, attending conferences and publishing books and articles.
Then, in 2011, I explored the creative techniques of visual anthropology through the Filmmaking for Fieldwork course. This jammed the way I think about politics, theories and methods, and highlighted the limits of disciplinary International Relations.
For the past decade, I’ve been exploring how using a camera and microphones opens up new avenues for research, and especially how they encourage us to appreciate international relations as a site of affect, experience, and the senses.
The result is a series of research-led films, which I’ve also discussed in my recent book Sensible Politics.
Great Walls (2020) looks at how the US-Mexico barrier, the Berlin Wall, and the Great Wall of China take on meaning and value when they are walked by elite politicians Trump, Reagan, and Nixon, as well as by the thousands of ordinary people who come to these sites every year.
Toilet adventures (2015) examines the international politics of gender and identity by exploring the visceral experience of going to the bathroom in China.
These films also contribute to the larger project, Digging to China, that uses my experience-led research in China to rethink global issues and general IR theory.