Talk "Nature, Politics, and Amphibious Worlds in Central Yangzi Valley of Late Imperial China" by Yan Gao
In this lecture, I analyze how local communities adapted to the central Yangzi environments in which wetlands and a subtropical monsoon climate imposed much uncertainty for hydro-agricultural activities during late imperial times. I especially look into how local people developed an amphibious lifestyle to cope with frequent flooding and drainage problems in this region. As an attempt for an intertwined analysis of materiality and social construction, this empirical study provides a case seeing amphibious worlds in late imperial China in which space, lifestyle, and social activities were organized through water and influenced by the materiality of wetland ecosystems. I thus argue that water was integral to social institutions as well as cultural practices of this region. I also discuss how Manchu and Mongols, who migrated to Central China during the Qing, adapted to the amphibious environments, and how the “amphibiousness” of the region was crucial in shaping the relationship between the central Yangzi region and the Qing state.
Yan Gao is fellow in the project „Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change“ (June 2023). She is a historian of late imperial and modern China. Growing up in Wuhan, China, she has been fascinated by the water issues of her native place and the world. She specializes in social and environmental history of central Yangzi region, water history, and Asian environmental humanities. Her first book Yangzi Waters, published by Brill, examines water management and environmental changes in late imperial central China. She continues to write about the Yangzi River, and expands her research interest to human-animal relations and climate humanities. Her current project explores the interactions of social and climate systems in the central Yangzi valley from the nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. She obtained her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University. She was a Carson fellow at the Rachel Carson Center and conducted research at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and Duke University.
Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies, R.400.02.12