AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 481

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Session 481: Local Responses to Global Environmentalism

The Reverse Environmental Gender Gap in China: Evidence from the China Survey
Ka Zeng, University of Arkansas, USA

We explore gender differences in attitudes about the seriousness of the environment as a problem in China using the 2008 China Survey. Our results indicate that there is indeed a “gender gap” in environmental attitudes in China, but the pattern is reversed from what has been generally found in previous work conducted in the United States and Europe. Chinese men, not women, show a greater concern about environmental problems and the seriousness of the environmental degradation in China. Further, we find that this gender gap is based largely in the substantial economic and educational differences between men and women in contemporary China, a finding with serious policy implications.

Social Change, Drinking-Water Consumption, and Sustainable Development: A Case Study of Poyang village
Liwen Li, Independent Scholar, China

Water crisis is of great significance for environment and sustainable consumption(Peter Gleick1993). The social history of water consumption proved to be a matter of diversification, complexity in different social and cultural backgrounds(Macnaghten and Urry 1998:2;Shove 2003:9).In a quite different society , How does the habits of drinking-water consumption change for the Chinese Peasants in the past decades and what social forces help shape them. Up to now, the academic world has little knowledge as to this area. This explorative paper is based on 2-month field-work in a village around Poyang Lake. My interview (12 informants, 3 males, 9 female, part-time job holders, shop owners, rural doctors, duck raisers ,etc)and participant-observation illustrate consumer revolutions of drinking water in only 10 years. Generally speaking, the local people’s consumption of water could be classified as 3 stages: before 2004 the peasant lied on natural water from wells and rivers, which were traditional ways lasting thousands of years. Yet this dramatic change brings the peasants to a world of modernity. From 2004 to 2008, tabs were accessible for all peasants. Water from rivers, wells and tabs are boiled before drinking. From 2008 more and more peasants use bottled water for guests and themselves. Though transportation, technology means a lot to bring about this silent revolution, rural-urban gap and self-identity, the perception of Mianzi and leisure, local public supply system are also very important in reshaping the consumption of drinking water.

From Colonial Agenda to Green Modernity? The Construction of Agricultural Professionalism and the Contested Arena of Bioenergy Experiment in Taiwan
Yi-tze Lee, University of Pittsburgh, USA

In this paper, I take the development of bioenergy as an example to show the case of problematic professionalism on applying agricultural materials for its novel usage, and the contested responses to the failing advocacy indicate diverse imagination on the “green modernity.” The experiment of energy crop was promoted vigorously from year 2005 to 2008 in Southern Taiwan based on the expectation of changing dormant farmland into open lab for agricultural residues. My discussion delves back to the establishment of colonial institutes of agricultural research during Japanese ruling as agenda for modernity to the analysis of most recent energy crop initiatives as failed imagination on modernity. For the farmers in Southern Taiwan, the memories over massive plantation on sugarcane plantation started from the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945). The problems come along with current energy crop plantation reflecting the mentality of sugarcane plantation history. Farmers questioned the imposition of the current policy by their rumors and comparison of historical situation with contemporary plantation problems, which brings the latent reality of power relation on the table. The trials over possible techniques involve not only policy imposed by the government but also the change of relationship among members of farmers’ association, landowners, and scientists on the validity of new technology. My discussion concludes on how the professionalism of technocrats and embodied experiences of local farmers create an arena of new perception on the implication to agrarian environment, turning the failed initiative into public awareness of alternative modernity.

Cremating, Purifying, and Recycling the Dead Body
Elise Prebin, Hanyang University, USA

In the past twenty years, the rise of a large, educated middle class in South Korea has led to the emergence of environmental NGOs a in democratic climate favorable to civil society's political activities. Contemporaneously, NGOs have promoted cremation against burial by evoking mostly economic and environmental arguments. Here I will talk about the environmental argument used in promotion campaigns to convince the population. On the one hand, the promoters of cremation pose that ancestors would rather be cremated because that accelerates the process of purification. But the belief in symbolic pollution at death still lingers as evidenced by informants' claim that ghosts indifferently haunt columbaria and burial grounds, but also by the stratified use of ash disposals. Even if cremation is seen as a process of purification and columbaria are seen as "clean", all ashes are not equal and the ancient categories of the dead remain. On the other hand, the idea that cremation is better for the environment, or "green", and that the body is somewhat disposable, has gained a popularity, which parallels the recent enthusiasm for vegan food, potted plants, and recycling. The purpose of this paper is to see how these two systems of representations the dead coexist and are justified by references to past and present religious cultures in a highly neo-liberal, consumerist society.