Spectacles of Decline: A Symposium on the Waning British Empire

James Hevia

Director of Global Studies and Faculty Member, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago

James Hevia’s research has focused on empire and imperialism in eastern and central Asia. Primarily dealing with the British Empire in India and southeast Asia and the Qing empire in China, the specific concerns have been with the causes and justifications for conflict; how empire in Asia became normalized within Europe through markets, exhibitions, and various forms of public media; and how the events of the nineteenth century are remembered in contemporary China. Both Cherishing Men from Afar (1995) and English Lessons (2003) focus on these issues. Subsequent research has centered on how the British in India developed and became dependent upon the production of useful knowledge about populations, geography, and pack animals to maintain their Asian empire. The first part of this project deals with military intelligence and appears in The Imperial Security State (2012). The second part of the project addresses military logistics, the uses of pack animals in warfare, the emergence of tropical veterinary medicine, and the physical transformation of the Punjab as a resource for supporting a security regime in northwest India.  These subjects are taken up in Animal Labor & Colonial Warfare (2018). The third part of the project, now underway, considers the impact on India of new agricultural sciences that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States. Imperial Pests will focus attention on applied or economic botany and entomology and demonstrate how “constructive colonialism” in India situated imperial development projects in a global scientific network. It will specifically address the war on insect and weed “pests” and the long-term ecological impact on post-colonial nations-states in South Asia.

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