China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Scholars, architects, and artists are increasingly drawn to the idea of environmental imaginaries to understand how societies conceptualize and negotiate environmental questions, but these inquiries most often draw on Western experiences (Buell, 1995, 2005; Heise, 2008; Hawkes 2008). Seeking to critically analyze the operation of environmental imaginaries in a non-Western context, this panel brings together scholars of environmental history, art history, literature, and geography in Chinese Studies to investigate how the environment has been imagined at different points in history. Methodologically, we detail the making of environmental identities and othering, as well as the societal power structure that allowed the construction and circulation of environmental ideologies across time and space. Specifically, Huang focuses on texts and tales of Medieval China to show how Northern immigrants encountered and interacted with mountains of the south. Mak draws on paintings of dams from the socialist era to analyze the imagining of ecotopian ideals. Lord examines pervasive narratives of China’s environmental crisis today. Through these analyses, this panel illustrates how environmental imaginaries capitalize on different elements or aspects of the natural surroundings, and how their imaginary uses profoundly and inescapably connect to politics. Ultimately, we seek to demonstrate how environmental imaginaries function as an analytical tool for scholars to rethink the physical, political, and economic relationship between people and their living environments, thereby, arguing its roles to illuminate the ways we imagine our environmental futures.