Ecological States: Conservation Infrastructure and Development on China’s Peri-Urban Fringe
Counter to the notion that the science of ecology arose from a critical understanding of the effects of modernity, a mechanistic approach to ecology in China has become a means of the formation and expression of state power. The larger architecture of my research illustrates how state power and forms of nature, in this case ecology, are deeply intertwined. In this colloquium talk, I illustrate how ecology becomes embedded within local state formations and socio-environmental governance through three interrelated spatial practices including city-level comprehensive urban-rural planning, peri-urban ecological migration, and the distribution of institutional responsibility for peri-urban conservation site financing, construction, and management. Enacting peri-urban conservation zones through ensembles of spatial practices extends the reach of city-level state power across the peri-urban fringe. As the reach of the local state extends, ecology becomes not only a means through which state power is produced, but a force mediating social relationships. I will discuss how ecology mediates the exercise of power in the built environment and daily life by discussing the spatial politics of valuation and compensation for peri-urban village housing and land as each are unevenly incorporated into urban government-led conservation. Uneven incorporation of rural land and housing shapes social differentiation, as well as how villagers navigate and experience rural-urban transitions.