*Social Studies 980K. The Politics of the Environment in Asia

Scholars have noted the connection between environment and specific forms of Asian politics and society. Today China reengineers the flow of its rivers to address social demands for water. South & Southeast Asian polities realize how politics beyond their borders can determine the flow of the region's rivers--and thus the health of their societies. The dangers of poor air quality, polluted land, and contaminated food energize social movements and unrest.  Asian development models have resulted in extreme pollution, and with resulting public health problems, governmental attention to the environment has increased. In this research seminar students will explore "politics and environment" in Asia, with some attention being given to the future.Marx, Weber, Wittfogel, Lattimore and others have implicated the environment in the shaping of the precise forms politics and society have taken in Asia.  This flavor of environmental determination has fallen out of favor in the social sciences, but elements of its attention to the environment continue to influence ongoing--and increasingly fraught--struggles by Asian polities for conventional and legal understandings of how to manage Asian societies' dramatically increased demands on and threats to/from the environment--water resources, pollution, air quality, etc.  China undertakes massive engineering projects on its great rivers to address water demands.  South and Southeast Asian polities have awakened to the realities of how the healthy flow of its great rivers--and thus the health of its societies--can be determined by the environmentally significant actions of entities well beyond their borders.  So too do the dangers of poor air quality, polluted agricultural land, and resulting contaminated foodstuffs energize social movements and unrest at increasing levels.  Taken against the backdrop of unparalleled population density, economic development models allowing Asian environments to become the most polluted on the planet, and the public health problems that unavoidably follow, the policy and governmental attention to water, the environment, and health has risen in importance in the last decade.  In this research seminar students will explore Asian examples of this "politics and environment" nexus in order to make arguments about current conditions.  In the interests of most of the planet, we might also get around to speculating on what is to be done about it all.
Note:  This course will be lotteried. 


Kevin Caffrey





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Social Studies
  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2016-2017 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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