Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

(53) From Land to Sea: Scaling Asian Environmental History in the Age of Revolutions

3/23/2018
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Maryland Suite C, Lobby Level

The period between 1860 and 1940 was a watershed moment in Asian environmental history, marked by scientific, technological, and political changes that transformed how people understood, used, and experienced the natural world. It was a time when ecological frontiers became industrial plantations, steam conquered oceans, and scientific ideas opened the Asian environment to new forms, levels, and circuits of exploitation. These changes, what we have termed "revolutions," were linked across space and time, and affected Asian lands before repurposing Asian waters.

Drawing on multilingual sources and interdisciplinary methods, this panel examines these environmental changes in the making of modern Asia. From land to sea, and from the Brahmaputra to Gokasho Bay, it opens new scholarly ground by exploring coastal/offshore changes alongside rural/urban transformations, and by analyzing these developments not only through historical frames of science and technology, but also along different scales of space and interaction. For example, Lavelle traces the transformation of China’s rural wastelands into productive landscapes through the cross-border flow of ideas and machines. Ericson uses a Japanese pearl farm to reflect on the littoral sea as an interwar site of industrial production and global connection. Medrano explains why estuaries along the Straits of Melaka were central to the rise of urban Southeast Asia. Finally, Iqbal complicates the “area studies” imaginary by showing how old regional rivers could yield new transregional histories, and how these new histories and perspectives can help us rethink the field of Asian studies through the lenses of science, technology, and the environment.

Presentations:

Anthony D. Medrano

Harvard University, Massachusetts

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Anthony D. Medrano

Harvard University, Massachusetts

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Peter Lavelle

Temple University, Pennsylvania

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Kjell Ericson

Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

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Anthony D. Medrano

Harvard University, Massachusetts

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Iftekhar Iqbal

Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei and Muara, Brunei

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Lance Nolde

California State University, Channel Islands, California

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