China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel sheds new light on knowledge production on Qing frontiers by focusing on the tension between imperial views and everyday experiences in Qing Inner Asia. While the history of Qing frontiers has traditionally been told from a state standpoint with a focus on military conquest and political administration, the papers aim at uncovering the social history of these regions by bringing to the fore the perspectives of new actors such as travelers, merchants, imperial officials, and local leaders, and their roles in shaping the relationship between knowledge and power on the Qing frontier through their encounters in local societies. This panel brings together original research on three main frontier regions of the Qing Empire, employing sources in Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, and Mongolian, to underscore cross-frontier comparisons and different types of social networks that either constituted or challenged state power. Kaijun Chen examines a set of travelogues of Manchus and Han Chinese who traveled to Mongolia to show how state agendas shaped narratives on local society. Huiying Chen's work highlights the contrast in mentality between imperial policies and merchants' accounts on their incursions into Xinjiang. The cases of official crimes brought by Lei Lin reveal the ways in which frontier circumstances informed the Qing officials deployed to the Himalayan frontier to make irrational decisions that contradicted the state agenda. Anne-Sophie Pratte's work showcases the contribution of local Mongols to the understanding of territory and geography in Mongolia.