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Samuel Bass "Reflections on fieldwork in Bortala, Xinjiang: frontier settlement and environmental change" Brown Bag Talk

Wed, Apr 8, 12:00 pm
Persimmon Room, IMU

Samuel Bass, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and The History Department, will be giving a talk entitled "Reflections on fieldwork in Bortala, Xinjiang: frontier settlement and environmental change" on Wednesday, April 8th at noon in Persimmon Room, IMU.

“In this presentation I will summarize the results of a social-environmental survey from Xinjiang I participated and offer some personal reflections about the fieldwork processI. I will discuss the discrepancies between what I perceive to be some important findings from our team’s research and the final edited report; in other words, how our fieldwork data were interpreted and edited into “environmental facts.” On a more personal level, participation in this project challenged me to consider my position as a foreign researcher in marginalized communities and the dilemmas raised by such positionality in this particular research context.

In 2010, I was part of a research team conducting a social assessment survey in Bortala, Xinjiang to determine the relationship between environmental degradation and rural communities around the Ebi Lake watershed. Our team traveled to several sites to conduct surveys as well as sampling; these sites included nomadic “settlement” communities, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) farms, and several small towns in the Jinghe and Bortala watersheds. Ebi Lake has been drying up since the mid-twentieth century and has lost about half of its surface area. The biodiversity of the wetlands around the lake have been impacted by this change, but the factors leading to the lake’s drying-up are complex and go well beyond the lake’s immediate environment. Diminishing glaciers, upstream irrigation agriculture, and the movement of nomadic communities in the region all play important roles in the story of Ebi Lake’s shrinking surface. This presentation should be of interest to those interested in fieldwork, environmental anthropology or history, contemporary nomadic Inner Asia, and Chinese border studies."

This is a talk in the Graduate Student Brown Bag Talks, designed to allow students to share their research, work, experiences and goals with their peers.