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Ed Pulford: Mirrorlands: Russia, China and Journeys in Between

last modified Jun 21, 2019 12:24 PM

Ed Pulford: Mirrorlands: Russia, China and Journeys in Between


Men on a balcony overlooking the city

Mirrorlands by Dr Ed PulfordThe China-Russia borderlands offer a unique vantage point from which to understand the myriad peoples, places and political cataclysms which have united and divided these two vast countries over time. As home to frontier-traversing tradespeople, cross-border indigenous groups, local populations wrestling with overlapping ideas of ‘Europe’ and ‘Asia’, descendants of centuries of Chinese and Russian intermarriage, intercontinental migrants and exiles, and twenty-first-century backpacking millennials, this juncture of worlds reveals a side to Sino-Russian relations which is only rarely considered – including by denizens of Moscow or Beijing. Culturally diverse lives here say much about how each old empire has respectively ruled its Eurasian domain before, during and since socialism, and how the experiences of ordinary people have often appeared to reflect each other across the borderline.

Mirrorlands, by recent Social Anthropology PhD Ed Pulford, tells the stories of these entangled Sino-Russian pasts and presents on both everyday and official levels. By means of a single journey from Moscow to Beijing crisscrossing the border through Siberia, Inner Mongolia, the Russian Far East and Manchuria, the book describes a vivid series of encounters with borderland residents in the bustling frontier towns, forest villages, socialist rustbelts and railway outposts they inhabit. Seeking to disrupt the troublesome voyeurism of a ‘journey’ undertaken by a Western outsider, the narrative is supplemented by historical and cultural insights derived from nine years Ed has spent living in China, Russia, Japan and Korea, and draws throughout on 1920s travelogues by Chinese and Russian leftist revolutionaries who once made overland journeys much more consequential than the author’s own.

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