I locate current my research at urban border sites of the Sino-Russian border, namely Manzhouli and Zabaikalsk - two border cities along the Transsiberian railway, and focuse on urban transformation of Manzhouli, how it became a façade of China’s modernity and a centre of consumption culture in North Asia in post-Socialist period, which contrasts sharply with the sleepy dullness of the still stagnant Russian Zabaikalsk.
By linking different approaches developed by history, social anthropology and economics I explore how distinctive and unique multiracial, multiethnic and multilingual border society is operating between Manzhouli and Zabaikalsk largely outside of state control using shortcomings and cracks of the contrasting economies of the three neighbouring national states – Russia, China and Mongolia. It would be too simplistic to compare and contrast success of economic development of China with economic failures of Russia by just comparing Manzhouli and Zabaikalsk. I’m interested to see what is happening on the ground and how border separates and unites people in a long term period; how informal transborder smuggling networks operate through porous borders; what border society comprises of; and how border society dictates new social hierarchy and group affiliations. In particular, I am interested in politics of hospitality in Manzhouli to see how the city space is shared between local Chinese and foreigners. The close proximity of Mongolian border speaks for a strong presence of the Mongolian speaking peoples here, who also take advantage of their new transborder identity. Intensive cultural and linguistic contacts of the multiethnic traders recently resulted in the revival of the new form of the historical contact language Chinese Pidgin Russian (CPR), which was used here during the caravan trade along the historical Tea Road which crossed Sino-Russian border at Kyakhta-Maimaicheng trade outpost, thus allowing to find more of historical recursions.
The main results of my research based at Mongolia & Inner Asia Research Unit at University of Cambridge (as a part of a larger Research Project “Where Rising Powers meet: China and Russia at their North Asian Border” www.northasianborders.net ) are going to be summarised in my monograph with a provisional title ‘Nested Subjects on the China - Russia Mongolia border’.