China and Inner Asia
25 years ago, Evelyn Rawski’s presidential address to the AAS Annual Conference spurred a radical re-envisioning of how the Qing dynasty ought to be historically understood—an approach Joanna Waley-Cohen later deemed “New Qing History.” Yet, despite highlighting the Qing empire’s politically co-optive, multiethnic, and ideologically plural nature as a Manchu regime, New Qing History has continued to emphasize top-down Qing state governance over inland territories, frontiers, and peoples.
This roundtable panel instead postulates a more maritime and bottom-up direction. It gathers four scholars who study Qing maritime history—Xing Hang, Robert Antony, Chris Chung, and Sunkyu Lee—together with Laura Hostetler, a central scholar of New Qing History, and invites participants to ponder what a New Qing History might look like in the coastal frontiers and sea—or indeed, whether such an approach is even tenable.
The discussants begin with brief seven to eight-minute presentations that draw upon their own research in response to the panel’s premise. Laura Hostetler gathers methodological insight from both her work on Qing colonial ethnographic representations of various peoples in the southwest Chinese frontier and, more recently, on Chinese territoriality in the South China Sea. Xing Hang details the Qing empire’s connections with overseas Chinese creole communities based along the Gulf of Siam littoral from 1760-1800 and traces the latter’s impacts upon mid-Qing interactions with this distant southeast Asian periphery. Robert Antony explores maritime history from the bottom-up by looking at the roles that non-state and non-elite actors—fishers, smugglers, pirates, and seafaring women—played in the Qing maritime world. Chris Chung examines how Qing rhetorics of political legitimacy and maritime spatiality intersected in late 18th century anti-piracy policymaking to depict maritime peoples as floating pockets of sovereignty. Finally, Sunkyu Lee compares Ming and Qing cartographic visions of land and sea frontiers portrayed in maritime defence maps.
Each discussant will then pose a question to spark the subsequent roundtable discussion. Here, discussants collectively expound upon, nuance, and/or critique each other’s points, thus creating a wide range of views that encourages audience questions. The panel chair, Chris Chung, will moderate and introduce additional topics as necessary.