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Zee, Jerry Chuang-Hwa

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
California, Berkeley, U. of
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
April 8, 2011
Project Title: 
Zee, Jerry Chuang-Hwa, U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'Zones of Experimentation: Science and Ecological Governance in Northern China,' supervised by Dr. Aihw Ong

JERRY CHUANG-HWA ZEE, then a student at University of California, Berkeley, California, received funding in April 2011 to aid research on 'Zones of Experimentation: Science and Ecological Governance in Northern China,' supervised by Dr. Aihwa Ong. Environmental problems, like desertification, which now afflicts more than a quarter of China's territory, have stood as a powerful site for the discussion of the consequences of the breakneck pace of Chinese development. China's rise has, in recent years, been understood not merely as a challenge to the international economic and geopolitical status quo, but as an ominous ecological threat to the planet itself. The threat of environmental degradation has challenged the Chinese state to take on the management and maintenance of sustainable environments as part of its governmental purview, and this new demand for the state to manage nature itself has showed the limits to existing techniques of governance when presented with this new task. In China, as the effects of 'socialist marketization' -- environmental disaster, social instability -- continue to surface, a confluence of political events and environmental disasters has seen a shift in state rhetoric toward 'sustainable development' and 'scientific' governance. This project explores how, in the PRC, programs to combat massive desertification, have made desertified regions zones of experimentation, where ecological research is applied to social-environmental governing. In so doing, it is argued, places zoned as environmental problem areas have seen local governments operating with reference to concepts derived from the ecological sciences, increasingly casting the task of government as the creation and management of ecological relations. This has transmuted the Maoist task of ideological transformation and mass organization into a matter of 'adjusting human and environmental relations' -- social management is framed as an ecological-governmental process by local governments, and informed by new research from the ecological sciences. This reframes how the state enacts relations with minority pastoralists, coal and commercial interests, and territory. Ongoing research tracks how local governments experiment with 'ecological' governance, and how manipulation of markets in land and employment are re-figured as techniques for creating new physical environments.