Mapping Shangrila

Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands

Edited by Emily T. Yeh and Christopher R. Coggins
Foreword by Stevan Harrell
Afterword by Ralph A. Litzinger

  • Published: 2014
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 348 pp., 15 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Studies on Ethnic Groups in China
  • Contents

In 2001 the Chinese government announced that the precise location of Shangrila-a place that previously had existed only in fiction-had been identified in Zhongdian County, Yunnan. Since then, Sino-Tibetan borderlands in Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, and the Tibet Autonomous Region have been the sites of numerous state projects of tourism development and nature conservation, which have in turn attracted throngs of backpackers, environmentalists, and entrepreneurs who seek to experience, protect, and profit from the region's landscapes.

Mapping Shangrila advances a view of landscapes as media of governance, representation, and resistance, examining how they are reshaping cultural economies, political ecologies of resource use, subjectivities, and interethnic relations. Chapters illuminate topics such as the role of Han and Tibetan literary representations of border landscapes in the formation of ethnic identities; the remaking of Chinese national geographic imaginaries through tourism in the Yading Nature Reserve; the role of The Nature Conservancy and other transnational environmental organizations in struggles over culture and environmental governance; the way in which matsutake mushroom and caterpillar fungus commodity chains are reshaping montane landscapes; and contestations over the changing roles of mountain deities and their mediums as both interact with increasingly intensive nature conservation and state-sponsored capitalism.
Emily T. Yeh is associate professor of geography at the University of Colorado Boulder and the author of Taming Tibet. Chris Coggins is professor of geography and Asian studies at Bard College at Simon's Rock and the author of The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture, and Conservation in China. Contributors include Michael Hathaway, Travis Klingberg, Charlene E. Makley, Bob Moseley, Renie Mullen, Michelle Olsgard Stewart, Chris Vasantkumar, Li-hua Ying, John Aloysius Zinda, and Gesang Zeren.

"This is an ambitious book that brings together a variety of experts on culture, politics, and the environment in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. Mapping Shangrila links a variety of disciplinary perspectives and, via an eloquent introduction, deploys a complex analytical tool kit that marries recent political ecology literature with concepts of governmentality and biopower."
-Ben Hillman, Australian National University

"Mapping Shangrila makes a major contribution to scholarly understanding of the cultural, environmental, and political dynamics that are remaking the Tibetan borderlands in China. Centered on 'Shangrila' and Tibetan regions of China, the volume offers a unique and entirely new perspective."
-Janet Sturgeon, author of Border Landscapes

Foreword by Stevan Harrell
Note on Transliterations and Place-Names
Abbreviations and Foreign-Language Terms
1. Vital Margins
2. Dreamworld, Shambala, Gannan
3. A Routine Discovery
4. Making National Parks in Yunnan
5. The Nature Conservancy in Shangrila
6. Transnational Matsutake Governance
7. Constructing and Deconstructing the Commons
8. Animate Landscapes
9. The Amoral Other
10. The Rise and Fall of the Green Tibetan

"Notable for the consistent high quality of all of the included articles, readers will be rewarded with interesting and accessible studies regardless of where they open the book. . . . [G]reater than its parts. . . . [I]t is the unveiling of a new way of thinking about landscapes as dynamic sites of exchange. . . . [R]eaders become witness to a landscape emerging from its pages that is as multidimensional and dramatic as one might imagine the 'real' Shangrila to be."
-E. Elena Songster, Environmental History

"[T]he editors of this book have done a fine job assembling recent studies into a comprehensive volume of ethnography and place-based geographical analysis. . . [F]inely written and informative, in the end this book is greater than the sum of its parts. . . . It simultaneously is empirical and humanistic-and for that reason illuminating. . . . [I]t successfully and pleasingly weds the fluttering of geographical imagination to real issues on the ground."
-David Zurick, Geographical Review

"With the publication of [In the Land of the Eastern Queendom and Mapping Shangrila], we see that "Sino-Tibetan Borderland Studies" has in a sense come of age as a distinct area of inquiry. . . . The Sino-Tibetan frontiers are thus of considerable interest in their own right, while bringing an important range of broad issues facing China into close focus as well."
-Matthew T. Kapstein, Pacific Affairs

"[A] welcome move away from a predominant view of Shangrila as a product of 'Western' desires and fantasies. . . [A]n important addition to the growing body of studies on China's borderlands (material and conceptual), which are central to social, political, and economic transformations in contemporary China."
-Trine Brox, Journal of Asian Studies

"Mapping Shangrila is an important-if somber-addition to the scholarly literature on Tibet, Tibetan peoples, borderland and frontier studies, geography, political ecology, and China area studies. Yeh and Coggins have once again proven themselves adept at producing scholarship that is solidly grounded in geographic theory and perspectives, while appealing to and accessible to much broader audiences. . . . Yeh and Coggins and their contributors should be commended for this important contribution, which should serve as a foundational reading for anyone seeking to understand how meanings and mappings of ethnicity, nature, and culture are shaped and reshaped in this fascinating and important region."
-Darrinn Magee, AAG Review of Books