Under a Westward Shadow: Gansu in the Reform Era


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




My dissertation is an environmental and social history of Gansu province from the late 1970s through
the 1990s. China’s eastern provinces and megapolises, like Shanghai and Shenzhen, profited the most from
Deng Xiaoping's market-oriented economic reforms enacted during this period. However, the high human,
material, and environmental costs of those reforms were often borne further westward in poorer provinces like
Gansu. My project foregrounds how the porous bodies and everyday living conditions of Gansu’s people were
affected by forces such as increased pollution and urbanization, desertification, global capital networks,
advancements in irrigation technologies and agricultural techniques, and the construction of dams and oil
pipelines. Aside from highlighting China's stark east-west inequalities, I argue that we understand the reform
period as an era of transition in the relationship between people and their environment alongside the already
well-studied social, political, economic, and ideological transitions that define the Deng era.