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2009-2010 USCI Faculty Research Grants

USC Faculty study visual ethnography, urbanization and environmental change, and American brands in China
August 25, 2011

Faculty Research Project Abstracts

Eric Heikkila - School of Policy, Planning, and Development
"Formulating an Issue-Based Typology of Chinese Cities"


Urbanization in China impacts US-China trade, global warming, and emerging socio-economic trends affecting both nations. This research planning grant will lay the foundations for a series of roundtable forums to address pressing urban development questions in Chinese cities. It will be undertaken in conjunction with colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design, the World Bank, Peking University and other institutions who will collaborate to create a matrix of key urban issues across the full spectrum of China's 667 cities. Several avenues for future research arise as a direct result of this work pertaining to the future path of urbanization in China, with direct implications for collaborating institutions who help shape public policy in this area.

Nancy Lutkehaus, Janet Hoskins and Gary Seaman - Department of Anthropology, Center for Visual Anthropology
"Cultural Dimensions of Visual Ethnography: US-China Dialogues"

A conference of film screenings and discussions co-funded by the Center for Visual Anthropology, Department of Anthropology and the U.S.-China Institute will bring Chinese scholars, visual anthropologists, documentary filmmakers and new media practitioners together in April to participate in discussions and presentations about cultural representations. Challenging an older model in which Euro-American filmmakers documented Asian ethnography, this conference would look comparatively at Chinese and American sites of visual ethnography production, and examine the cultural dimensions of filmmaking. A keynote speaker will frame the critical issues involved in these discussions, and lay the groundwork for the comparative evaluation of strategies for observing, recording, editing and framing ethnographic documentaries.

Questions addressed by conference participants will include: How has visual ethnography shifted from being a discipline of "first world" filmmakers traveling to film "third world" people to a more complex anddialogical series of exchanges? Moving away from this bi-polar perspective to see the world in more complex and subtle terms, how have the audience for ethnographic documentaries shifted in recent years? How are ethnographic documentaries influenced by controversies about minority nationalities and ethnicity? What is the relationship between visual ethnography and the commercial videos produced for tourism promotion? What is the role of autobiographical or first person documentaries in defining a cultural perspective? What role do videos play in maintaining transnational connections among dispersed families and communities in China and the US? How do websites and web-based blogsserve to maintain transnational ties?

Jefferey Sellers - Department of Political Science
Shui-Yan Tang - School of Policy, Planning, and Development
"Capital Flows: Urbanization and Environmental Change in China and India"

Urbanization has had major social, economic and environmental consequences in China, especially in regions with the most intensive foreign investment. Since links between external investment and urban change are common to developing countries, comparisons with other similar countries can illuminate how Chinese urbanization is distinctive. This collaborative international project explores the relationship between foreign investment, patterns of peri-urban expansion and the environmental consequences in ten Chinese urban regions alongside a parallel sample of regions in India. USCI funding will help support a workshop at Wuhan University to analyze remote sensing and other data that is currently being collected and processed in both countries.

Jay Wang - Annenberg School for Communication
"National Image and Consumer Politics in the Global Marketplace: The Case of American Brands in China"

This study addresses the issue of anti-American sentiments in the domain of consumer behavior in China. We are interested in exploring to what extent public perceptions and attitudes concerning a certain country may affect their choice of the brand from said country. Granted, the underpinnings of country perceptions and attitudes are multi-faceted. Here, we focus on international relations and foreign policy as the primary driver of national image perception. We situate the analysis within the concept of "consumer nationalism" and approach the study from the perspectives of Chinese young consumers through an online survey. We have three main research questions. First, under what conditions do Chinese young consumers' negative perceptions of U.S. foreign policy pose a threat to American brands in the Chinese marketplace? Second, how do they express their discontent with U.S. China policy in the realm of consumption, and what are the tactics in discourse and action they commonly employ? Third, what are their preferred media outlets for expressing their discontent during such events? The project will conclude with suggestions for communication strategies for American companies and the U.S. government, respectively. This is part of a book project that examines the interplay between brand nationality and international relations in the contemporary marketplace.