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Writing in Water, or, Evanescence, Enchantment and Ethnography in a Chinese Urban Park


  • Angela Zito


This article reflects upon my experience of filmmaking in a public park in Beijing where I learned to write Chinese calligraphy in water. The essay is committed to the idea that people simultaneously produce persons and worlds in practices that result in the material mediations within which those selves are entangled, and also powerfully engage the environment. Thus, the film features aesthetics that form through the embodiment of a certain kind of politics. It emerged in performance but now exists as an artifact, an example of what philosopher Jane Bennett calls “enchanted materialism.” By combining moments of liveness and objectification, it mimics, in a small way, the production of the social itself. Ethnography, I argue here, should account for as much of this dialectical process as it can.

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