Wesley Byron Chaney
- Assistant Professor
- Bates College
Land, Trade, and the Law on the Sino-Tibetan Border, 1723-1911
This dissertation traces eighteenth- and nineteenth-century social and demographic changes on the Sino-Tibetan frontier, specifically the crumpled landscape of mountains and ravines along the modern-day Gansu-Qinghai border. By drawing on a diverse array of sources—primarily central and local legal cases, but also contracts, genealogies, and Tibetan-language histories—the project chronicles how migration, changing material conditions, and the rebellion of the 1860s affected the lives of farmers and peddlers, herders and lumberjacks. In doing so, the dissertation brings the study of Qing frontiers into conversation with legal history, historical anthropology, and Annales-inspired social history, fields all too often ignored in top-down studies of empire. Ultimately, the project contributes to understanding why the Sino-Tibetan borderlands are part of the PRC today and why their inclusion continues to be so contentious.
Stolen Land, Broken Bodies: Law, Environment, and Violence in Northwest China
"Stolen Land, Broken Bodies: Law, Environment, and Violence in Northwest China" offers the first ground-level account of the “rebellion” that devastated northwest China’s Islamo-Tibetan borderlands in the nineteenth century. Drawing on central and local legal case records, contracts, genealogies, and other local sources, it traces the environmental transformations and legal disputes over land, resources, and individual bodies that attended imperial expansion during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Ultimately, the project argues that the legacy of this history continues today, in resource allocation, in the reach of the state, and in continuing tensions between the Muslim, Tibetan, and Han Chinese peoples of the Qinghai-Gansu border.