Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines visions of environmental degradation in contemporary and modernist Chinese science fiction. Characterized by portrayals of technological dystopias, authoritarian politics and environmental degradation, Chinese science fiction writers share similar concerns to critical environmental humanities scholars in their assessment of the effects Chinese political and social development. This paper explores some recurring themes — the death of nature, human-animal relations, technological fetishism, consumer culture and toxicity — that resonate both in contemporary Chinese science fiction and in environmental anthropology. Contemporary sci-fi writers build on an earlier generation of modernist Chinese writers who anticipated such critiques of state-led technological development and environmental degradation in their works. The paper offers a close reading of Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide, a science fiction thriller set in a designated electronic waste processing town, highlighting its portrayal and critique of throwaway culture, the production of toxic urban environments and the relationship between contemporary capitalism and labor and work in contemporary China.