Frontier Fantasies: Northwest China, National Crisis, and the Cultural Imagination


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships


History and Classical Studies


My project investigates the roots of contemporary China’s Belt and Road Initiative through previous instances of Chinese state power extending itself into peripheries, particularly Northwest China. Over the past century, whenever the densely populated eastern seaboard has been threatened by crisis, Chinese officials launched development campaigns in the hinterland. To garner popular support, political regimes not only pointed to the problem of regional inequality but also translated colonial imaginaries, including the American frontier story, the English garden city, and the Silk Road. Through a focus on the city of Xi’an, I consider how the Chinese state has attempted to align local space and subjectivity with their economic strategies and cultural imaginaries in the Northwest.