Current Institutional Affiliation
Anthropology, New York University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, New York University
The Chinese in Vladivostok: Capital, Expansion, and Reterritorialization in the Russian Far East

In this project, I look to study an emergent, twenty-first-century frontier of global capitalism ethnographically. With the end of the USSR and the recalibration of Sino-Russian relations, both China and Russia have looked to the Russian Far East, particularly its regional capital of Vladivostok, as they anticipate significant prosperity through increased trade and expansion of markets. Both countries see this regionalism as a great moment in history, with the remaking of economies, properties, and the social ties that bind them. Chinese state firms have expanded economies of scale by entering Russian commodities and construction markets, while Russian clients look for support in upgrading regional infrastructures. But in what ways might Russians and Chinese experience these agreements on different terms, and in what ways may China's economic advantage recall capitalisms of old? In contrast to studies that have charted "the Chinese dragon" at work in purely economic or foreign policy terms, I root this project ethnographically by tracing the paths of both managers and workers of a state-owned Chinese construction firm currently operating within the crowded construction market of today's Vladivostok, including perspectives from their Russian partners, and their international trajectories. I intend to understand the everyday experience of young Chinese state entrepreneurs working on the frontiers of the expansion of the so-called Chinese model. What are the recurrent stances and metaphors inherent in their depictions of their lives in Russia? How does the experience of working in Russia bear upon their emerging sense of self, Chinese society, and their changing place in the world at large? Asking how differentiated histories, politics, and economies bear upon Chinese participation in the rebuilding of Vladivostok, I seek to study the role that narratives of difference play in the everyday expansion of these markets.