Organized Panel Session
Environments and ecologies in East Asia have been profoundly destroyed and altered, especially since the onset of modern industrialization. Reckless capitalist development, rapid urbanization, and imperialism/colonialism have all led to deforestation, soil erosion, species extinction, and the spread of toxic materials. Bringing together a diverse group of scholars, this panel examines how human and non-human beings in East Asia have coped with legacies and specters of such environmental destruction, pollution, and transformation. Rather than simply pointing to how destroyed East Asia’s environment is, however, we attend to what Anna Tsing calls “collaborative survival in profoundly damaged landscapes,” or “the possibility of life in capitalist ruins”. We together discuss how curious spaces of human and non-human survival, and even flourishing, are emerging in the region’s forests, farms, and lands. Satsuka attends to such emerging ecologies in Japan’s agrarian (satoyama) forests by tracing the efforts of Japanese scientists to revitalize this abandoned landscape and artificially cultivate matsutake mushrooms there. Sugimoto’s paper approaches emerging ecologies on Taipei’s wastelands, where native Austronesian people grow vegetables and forage wild plants to maintain human-environmental relations in a postindustrial urban landscape. Tsai points to emerging ecologies at rural Taiwanese farms where golden apple snails, despite often being labeled as invasive, have co-lived with farmers and together enacted human-nonhuman collaboration. Kim’s paper discusses the curious flourishing of rare and endangered species in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. She argues that this condition emerged out of Cold War-era militaristic environmentalism upheld by South Korea and the US.