Weaving Shuttles and Ginseng Roots: Commodity Flows and Migration in a Borderland of the Russian Far East
AbstractThe breakdown of the Soviet Union has transformed the Russian Far East into an economic, national, and geopolitical borderland. Commodity flows and labor migration, especially from China, have created both economic challenges and opportunities for the local population. The article investigates the intricate relationships between commodities, migration, and the body in the borderland between the Russian Far East (Primorskii Krai) and northeastern China (Heilongjiang Province). Small-scale trade and smuggling in the Russian-Chinese borderland represent an important source of income for the local population. Especially tourist traders, the so-called chelnoki who cross the border on a regular basis, profit from the peculiar qualities of the region. The article explores how border economies entangle bodies and commodities on both material and conceptual levels. Chinese commodities and economic activities shape local perceptions as the experience of local Russians with migrant workers from China is mediated through encounters at open-air markets and regular shopping sprees to neighboring China. The intimate entanglement with the border and its commodity flows means that perceptions of, and involvement in, cross-border commodity flows are experienced in a very corporeal form. Chinese labor migration into the Russian Far East is perceived as a threatening consumption of oneâ€™s own land, population, and resources. The economic and social interchanges in the Far East blur the boundaries between objects and people and at the same time connect the economic actors to the unique geography, flora, and fauna of this borderland.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, UC Berkeley in its series Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, Working Paper Series with number qt5r96h3sb.
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2008
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