Death and Life on the Yangtze: Extinction, Conservation and Environmental Change in Modern China

Date & Time: Friday, October 22, 2021, 10 a.m.
Location: Online

As part of ASU's commitment to global engagement, sustainability and future-oriented knowledge and research, the Center for Asian Research has organized a series of virtual lectures for the 2021-2022 academic year on the theme of "Global Asia in a Multipolar World." This virtual lecture series highlights research from prominent scholars in an array of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and beyond, broadly centered on Inter-Asian networks and flows of ideas, peoples and texts across national and linguistic borders. 

Our first lecture, "Death and Life on the Yangtze: Extinction, Conservation and Environmental Change in Modern China," will be provided by Professor David Pietz, UNESCO Chair in Environmental History (University of Arizona). This presentation will seek to identify and explore, in a preliminary way, research questions on the social construction of the extinction of the Yangtze Baiji dolphin and subsequent conservation efforts of the Yangtze Finless Porpoise. Specific questions include: How did animal life fit into Chinese world views? How is the notion of extinction mediated by cultural context? To what degree is conservation laden with cultural meaning and values? How was animal life perceived during the Maoist period? How was the science of conservation biology (re) introduced in China during the post-Mao era? How do conservation efforts fit patterns of bureaucratic behavior in China? How has the term “biodiversity” been adopted by different social constituencies in China during the post‐Mao era? The presentation will not engage the entirety of this laundry list of questions, but instead represents an initial effort at developing a research agenda to explore these and other analytical themes.