‘Mirrorlands’: Ed Pulford on the Sino-Russian border


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This week, Sinica features a chat with Ed Pulford, author of the recent book Mirrorlands: Russia, China, and Journeys in Between. Kaiser chats with Ed about the Sino-Russian border and Ed’s anthropological travelogue exploring the border’s past and present.

What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:

28:06: Ed describes some of the tensions and perceptions that exist in the borderlands between Siberia and China’s northeast: “I think the increasing presence of Chinese ‘things’ — whether it’s material objects, consumer goods, or people who are coming over as tourists… — it’s a big shock, and it has [presented] a lot of worries about the osmotic potential for what would happen if things were balanced out in terms of population and land use.”

43:43: Ed talks about Leonid, a Nanai man (赫哲族, Hèzhézú) whom he met during his travels along the Russian-Chinese border, his own ethnic awakening, and others that are occurring (and not occurring) around the world. “Among many, many indigenous groups of the Far East, the Far North, and Siberia, the post-Soviet period has been one where interest in global indigeneity — whether it’s Native American populations, Maori, or any other global indigenous cause — [there has] been a huge boom.”

Ed explains that within China, conditions are different: “There’s been a lot of this inter-indigenous group communication and networking. Whereas in China, at least from the Hèzhé and other groups, including the Éluósīzú and other minority groups, they’re part of a Chinese world that is not so much a part of those same discussions.”


Ed: The Crab Cannery Ship and Other Novels of Struggle, by Kobayashi Takiji, and National Book Award finalist Pachinko, by Minjin Lee.

Kaiser: Ivanhoe, a 1982 film adaptation of the original work by Sir Walter Scott.