Wang Hui identifies the binary of empire/nation-state as the prevailing meta-epistemological structure challenging understandings of the history of China in the world. The problem is contingent on spatial concepts. In socio-spatial thought, territory of nation-states is or would be relatively fixed and territory of empires is relatively dynamic. However, understanding China and the Chinese state transhistorically is arguably more complex than the binary would have it. Yet research on China in the humanities and social sciences has maintained spatial norms of the nation-space construct, which bracket questions about ongoing territorial change and its implications for understanding governance, power and political thought and ideology. Notions of such a 'territorial trap' are at stake in the main paradigms historically adopted in the U.S. academy for research on China—the response to the West, modernization theory, imperialism, the macroregion, and revolution, among which only revolution is not embedded in political-economic liberalism. The macroregion, a fixed-space model, which Paul Cohen notably highlights, in Discovering History in China, especially contrasts with territorial economies of city-regions in China under reform. In response to the apparent impasse, can a territorial approach concerned with the state's geographies of political order, through dynamic territorial transformation, revive a 'China-centred' approach?
Carolyn Cartier is a professor of human geography and China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, and adjunct research director of the 'Place and Space' theme at the Centre for China in the World. She is chief investigator of the ARC Discovery project, 'Governing the City in China: The Territorial Imperative' (2017–2020).
All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House for informal discussion with the guest speaker after the seminar. With the consent of speakers, seminars are recorded and made publicly available through the Seminar Series’ website to build an archive of research on the Sinophone world.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.