China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel explores “animal, vegetable and mineral” aspects of how the Chinese state maintained a “super-niche,” which encompassed a network of niches (agricultural and urban, primarily), to buffer social and ecological uncertainty across the imperial and modern periods. We consider China’s complex and dynamic environmental history of adaptation and exploitation, from the middle imperial into the modern period, as an environmental governance profoundly conditioned by natural systems as well as human institutions. Analysis, ranging from animals in and out of domestication, fire as technology and ideology, water through hydrology, and soils and plants under cultivation, focus on fundamental elements that form the foundation of China’s lived environment. In particular, Bello focuses on state interactions with wild and domestic animals during the Qing. Hayes examines late Qing and twentieth century fire technologies, ideologies and their uses. Zhang examines a mix of state- ecology interactions in a human built hydrological environment in western Zhejiang. And Hill analyzes twentieth century confluence of fertilizers, farming and state systems. Together, these papers demonstrate how elemental niches contrived by state environmental governance of fire control, water management, agriculture, and foraging and pastoralism were simultaneously conditioned by natural systems. In the process, this panel explores some of the dynamics that informed and shaped China’s rise as a global environmental force.