Lunchtime Seminar – 17 November – Sakura Christmas

November 10th, 2015 by

A lunchtime seminar will be held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Tuesday 17 November 2015, 12.00–1.00

All welcome

Sakura Christmas

Bowdoin College, Brunswick (ME)

Hybrid Sheep in the Alfalfa Empire:
Rationalizing the Steppe in Occupied Inner Mongolia, 1920–1940


This paper examines how the ethnic and ecological contours of eastern
Inner Mongolia were formed in its collision with the Japanese empire.
It focuses on a region of overlapping Chinese, Mongol, and Tungusic
communities where state planners of occupied Manchukuo set up an
experiment in “autonomous” rule in 1932. Known as Khinggan
Province, it would serve as one blueprint for Inner Mongolia, the
first autonomous region founded in 1947, two years before the
People’s Republic of China existed.

Like the Third Reich laying claims to the “eternal forests” of the
Germanic soul, Japanese imperialists pursued their ethnic origins in
the primordial nature of the Asian continent. What they found in
eastern Inner Mongolia in the early twentieth century, however, was a
“dying race” of nomads being dispossessed of their communal lands
by Chinese settlers. This paper looks at how ethnicity and environment
became conflated in such a way that the subsequent Japanese project to
“revive” Mongols also led to forbidding land reclamation and
encouraging pastoral practice on what remained of the steppe. By the
1930s, though, this program sought to eliminate the nomadic features
of herding because its imperial architects did not see seasonal
migration as a “rational” use of resources, but rather, the root
of overgrazing and land degradation in Inner Mongolia.

Such dramatic and sweeping claims by the imperial state did the
political work of motivating grassland protection policies in
rearranging the livelihoods of herders in the Mongolian territories.
Japanese experimental farms began disseminating alien grasses and
hybrid animals whose intensive care demanded sedentary patterns of
livelihood, undercutting nomadic practice over time. The introduction
of alfalfa and merino from idealized landscapes of Australia and North
America fostered these ecologies of betrayal: while the steppe would
continue to look like the steppe, the resultant scientific
stock-farming would also transform an underlying ecology of
transhumance into one of sedentary extraction.