Water “Controls” across the Qing Multi-ethnic Empire
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About the talk:
My talk concerns aspects of the historical relationship between climates, of varyingdegrees of moisture and aridity, and human policies in two distinct regions of eighteenth- andnineteenth-century Qing China. I will consider some of the contrasting dynamics of very different water systems in case two studies, one from the water-rich lower Yangzi delta and one from the water-scarce Zunghar basin of Xinjiang. In the delta, I consider some of the social conflicts associated with the random fluctuations of sand flat siltage. In the basin, I consider some of the problems associated with the conversion of Torghut Mongol refugees from pastoralists to agriculturalists. In both cases, I want to show how water and climate, humid or arid, significantly established different possibilities and constraints to which state authorities had to adapt as best they could. These two studies form the core of my new environmental history project, Liquid Dependencies, that considers empire as a “multi-environmental” enterprise integrating both humans and their ecologies, rather than an exclusively multi-ethnic social construct.
About the speaker:
David A. Bello received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California and is currently Elizabeth Lewis Otey Professor of East Asian Studies in the Department of History at Washington and Lee University. His main research interest is environmental and borderland history, involving relations between natural systems, ethnic identity and imperial space during China’s last dynasty, the Qing (1644-1912). His first book Opium and the Limits of Empire: Drug Prohibition in the Chinese Interior, 1729-1850, was published in 2005 by the Harvard Council on East Asian Studies. His new book, Across Forest, Steppe and Mountain: Environment, Identity and Empire in Qing China’s Borderlands, was published in 2016 by Cambridge University Press, as part of its “Studies in Environment and History” series. His work has also appeared in “Oxford Bibliographies (Chinese Studies),” The Journal of Asian Studies, Modern China, Late Imperial China, Environmental History and Inner Asia. His current project is entitled Liquid Dependencies: Water & Authority in Qing Borderlands (18th-19th Centuries).