2018 Symposium

CASE Symposium
Planting China: The Illinois Symposium on Chinese Agriculture, Society, and the Environment

Saturday, Apr 21, 2018, 11 am-4 pm

Lucy Ellis Lounge – 1080 Foreign Languages Building (707 S Mathews Ave., Urbana)

Keynote address: Peter Lavelle (Assistant Professor of History, Temple University), “Chinese Agriculture in the Age of High Imperialism”

This talk will draw on several examples from the late Qing era to explain the history of Chinese agriculture at a time of global integration, and use these examples to rethink issues related to social, technological, and environmental history in China.

12:30-1:15 pm
Mark Frank, UIUC, “Food and Accommodation: Chinese Grain Governance in Eastern Tibet, 1908-1949”

1:15-2:00 pm
Spencer Stewart, U Chicago, ” ‘A Community Crop’: Science and Society in the Making of Shandong’s Cotton Economy, 1918-1937″

2:15-3:00 pm
Chris Reed, Iowa State, “Sino-Silviculture: State-sponsored Green Forestry Initiatives in Western China?”

3:00-3:45 pm
Wonhee Lee, SUNY Albany, “The 1976 U.S. Wheat Studies Delegation to the People’s Republic of China”

4:00-4:30 pm
Yue Liao, UIUC, “Farmer Co-operatives in Post-socialist China”

4:30-5:15 pm
Eric Siu-kei Cheng, The Education University of Hong Kong,
“‘Yes, There is Agriculture’: An Anthropological Perspective on the Sustainability of Hong Kong’s Agriculture”

Planting China flyer 2

The deadline for submissions has passed, but you can see our call for papers below:

Symposium banner 1

{Call for Papers}
Planting China: The Illinois Symposium on Chinese Agriculture, Society, and the Environment
April 21, 2018 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Submission deadline: March 15, 2018.

Keynote address:
Peter Lavelle (Assistant Professor of History, Temple University), “Chinese Agriculture in the Age of High Imperialism”

Sponsored by the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies and the Center for Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

UIUC organizers:
Dr. Jeffrey Martin (Anthropology/EALC)
Dr. SHAN Depeng (visiting scholar from Southwest University for Nationalities, PRC)
Mark Frank (EALC)
LIAO Yue (Anthropology)

When China scholars meet across disciplines we often talk about agriculture, but it is rarely the organizing principle. The premise of this symposium is that agrarian studies is absolutely central to understanding China’s past and present. In dynastic China most people were farmers, most of the materials used in daily life were grown, and most taxes were assessed on farmland. The internecine strife of the twentieth century was largely an agrarian drama. China’s transition to an industrial economy over the past three decades has had a profound impact on the agrarian sector, facilitating what Philip Huang calls “China’s hidden agricultural revolution”. Neither the social nor physical landscapes of China can be understood apart from the past and present of human-plant relationships.

The terms “agriculture, society, and the environment” in our title do not refer to three distinct areas of study, but rather, to the nexus of those categories, which is where we situate agrarian studies. The goal of this symposium is a robust conversation on two questions: What should the field of Chinese agrarian studies look like? What is its relevance to the study of gender, ethnicity, and other theoretical issues? And how does it matter for our understanding of China’s contemporary challenges and opportunities? This is a conversation that will contribute to agrarian studies as an inherently interdisciplinary and transregional way of approaching historical and contemporary problems, combining insights from the humanities, sciences and social sciences.

Towards this goal, we invite sympathetically-minded scholars and practitioners working in any discipline or time-period to propose papers which might contribute to the theme of “Chinese Agriculture, Society, and the Environment”. Proposals should include a title and an abstract of 200 words. We especially seek proposals from women and members of other groups that are underrepresented in the field, as well as papers that expand or challenge the conventional boundaries of agrarian studies. Proposals centered on regions outside of China are also welcome, provided that they establish relevance to Chinese agrarian studies. Limited travel funding is available for speakers visiting from outside of central Illinois.

All topics pertinent to the broad theme of the symposium are welcome, but some of the organizers’ core interests include:

  • Archaeology and the “deep history” of agrarian states
  • Agriculture and empire, agriculture and nationalism
  • Gender, ethnicity, and farming
  • The history of scientific agriculture
  • Climate change and Agricultural sustainability
  • Farmer cooperatives and the solidarity economy

We welcome you to submit proposals using the form below:





Questions about the symposium can be directed to mefrank2@illinois.edu