China and Inner Asia
24 years ago, Evelyn Rawski’s talk at the AAS Annual Meeting spurred a radical re-envisioning of how the Qing dynasty ought to be historically understood — an approach Joanna Waley-Cohen later deemed “New Qing History.” Yet, despite highlighting the Qing empire’s politically co-optive, multiethnic, and ideologically plural nature as a Manchu regime, New Qing History has continued to emphasize top-down Qing state governance over inland territories, frontiers, and peoples.
This roundtable panel instead postulates a more maritime and bottom-up direction. It gathers four scholars who study Qing maritime history — Ronald Po, Guotong Li, Chris Chung, and Sunkyu Lee — together with Joanna Waley-Cohen, who first coined the term “New Qing History,” and invites participants to ponder what a New Qing History might look like in the coastal frontiers and sea — or indeed, whether such an approach is even tenable.
The discussants begin with brief eight to nine-minute presentations that draw upon their own research in response to the panel’s premise. Ronald Po methodologically explicates a “New Qing Maritime History” paradigm that highlights the Qing administration’s deliberate integration of its maritime frontier into its empire. Joanna Waley-Cohen reflects on the implications of extending New Qing History to maritime history and non-state actors as head of a multi-year project on port cities at NYU Shanghai. Guotong Li dissects imperial constructions of ethnicity and difference in coastal Fujian using an “early modern” Ming-Qing periodization, such as Manchu cultural universalism’s impact upon Muslim merchants and their families. Chris Chung examines how Qing rhetorics of political legitimacy and maritime territoriality intersected in late 18th century anti-piracy policymaking that depicted maritime peoples as floating pockets of sovereignty. Finally, Sunkyu Lee compares divisions between land and sea frontiers envisioned by Ming and Qing elites and officials, and assesses how maritime studies might challenge New Qing History.
Each discussant will then pose a question to spark the subsequent roundtable discussion. Here, discussants collectively expound upon, nuance, and/or critique each other’s points, thus creating a wide range of views that encourages audience questions. The panel chair, Chris Chung, will moderate and introduce additional topics as necessary.