Writing Ecologies Book Talk: Knowing Manchuria: Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian Borderland

When and Where

Tuesday, May 09, 2023 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
EAS Lounge - 14th Floor
Robarts Library
130 St George Street


Ruth Rogaski, Associate Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
Moderator: Qieyi Liu, PhD Candidate, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto


At the intersection of China, Russia, Korea, and Mongolia, Manchuria is known as a site of war and environmental extremes. Covering more than 500,000 square miles, Manchuria’s landscapes include temperate rainforests, deserts, prairies, cultivated plains, wetlands, and Siberian taiga.

With analysis spanning the seventeenth century to the present day, Ruth Rogaski reveals how an array of historical actors—Chinese poets, Manchu shamans, Russian botanists, Korean mathematicians, Japanese bacteriologists, American paleontologists, and indigenous hunters—made sense of nature in one of the world’s most contested borderlands. She uncovers how natural knowledge, and thus the nature of Manchuria itself, changed over time, from a sacred “land where the dragon arose” to a global epicenter of contagious disease; from a tragic “wasteland” to an abundant granary that nurtured the hope of a nation. 

Ruth Rogaski is an Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt Univeristy, where she specializes in the history of science, medicine, and the environment in China. 

Writing Ecologies: Environmental Humanities and East Asia is a new monthly Speaker Series, which brings together recent scholarship experimenting with ecocritical and greater-than-human approaches in the context of East Asia.

'Writing ecologies' entails the practice of pushing the edges of conventional anthropocentric narratives in history, literary studies, anthropology and beyond. Seeking to respond to the urgency of addressing environmental questions in the humanities and social sciences, we are excited to present a great lineup of speakers and embark on a journey to trace the glimmers of entanglements between humans, land, water, animals, plants, fungi, and much more.

With situated research and stories in East Asia, this series foregrounds critical interventions that advance our understanding of the global environmental crisis and enrich our imagination of a more habitable future.

Writing Ecologies: Environmental Humanities and East Asia is organized by Qieyi Liu and MengRan Xu. PhD Candidates in the Department of East Asian Studies