Saturday, July 25, 2015

CFP: Empires of Water: Water Management and Politics in the Arid Regions of China, Central Eurasia and the Middle East (16th-20th centuries)

Empires of Water
Water Management and Politics in the Arid Regions of China, Central Eurasia and the Middle East (16th-20th centuries)
26-28 May 2016, Hong Kong
  • Lingnan University (26-27 May 2016)
  • The University of Hong Kong (28 May 2016)
Confirmed Keynote Speakers
Prof. Nicola Di Cosmo
Luce Foundation Professor in East Asian Studies, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
Prof. Judith Shapiro
Director of the Masters in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development for the School of International Service at American University, Washington, DC
Prof. Donald Worster
Professor Emeritus of History, University of Kansas / Center for Ecological History, Renmin University of China, Beijing
About the Conference
Lingnan University, the University of Hong Kong, and the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (Brill Publishers) are pleased to announce a call for papers for a conference devoted to the history of water management in the arid regions in the Middle East, Maghreb, Sahel, Caucasus, Central/Inner Asia, Mongolia, and China in the early modern and modern periods and into the present day.
While over the last decades scholars of the world’s modern age have accorded greater attention to the environment, little has been done to historicise water management in the arid regions of Western and Northern China, Central Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and especially its imbrications with forms of communal organization, governance, and knowledge. Until the first half of the 20th century, the macro-region stretching from Morocco to Inner Asia fell within the domains of the Ottoman, Persian, Russian, Chinese, British and French Empires. However, the imperial as well as the local dimensions of water management in these areas of the world have largely been understudied. What policies did empires develop to control water and maximize revenues? How did water science and technology reflect imperial policies? Did local knowledge inform imperial and post-imperial plans, techniques, and practices of irrigation? How did state water-management affect the every-day life of local societies? When did ecological considerations inform imperial policies of conservationism? How inter-imperial competition and technical developments impacted water management in the arid macro-region of Africa and Asia? How international confrontation and economic development policies during the Cold War and beyond impacted water management in the arid macro-region? What were the responses and adaptations to state policies of local communities whose economies were entangled with specific aquatic ecosystems?                                 
By taking stock of the entanglements between imperial formations and the environment, the conference will address these and related questions, and outline a comparative history of imperial and post-imperial governance related to water management. Panels will thus facilitate a dialogue across different research-areas, by focusing on the study, control and exploitation of river, marine and lake ecosystems.
The conference is open to historians, social and environmental scientists contributing various areas of expertise (including but not limited to environmental history, economic history, social history, cultural history, history of science, geography, anthropology, sociology, international relations, political science).
Conference convenors will select papers that focus on topics as diverse as (but not limited to):
  • Culturally-specific traditions of water management
  • Relations between political regimes and water management
  • Interactions of peasant and pastoral populations in the management of water
  • Conceptualization in different legal traditions of water as a “natural resource”
  • Commodification of water
  • Rivers as borders and as the environmental and economic pivots of borderlands
  • International disputes over the exploitation of water resources
  • Development of scientific knowledge related to water management and its use by the polities ruling over the Afro-Asian arid macro-region
  • Water management and engineering megaprojects
  • Economic development projects linked to irrigation
  • Human-induced crisis of aquatic ecosystems
  • Fisheries management and regulation
Since the topic of the conference is expressly interdisciplinary, we encourage the submission of proposals for comparative panels, in order to stimulate dialogue between different disciplines. Comparative panels may focus on different geographic areas, historical periods, and/or take advantage of different disciplinary approaches.
Paper or panel proposals should be sent to by 15 October 2015.
Proposals should include paper abstracts of up to 500 words and a short CV (no more than 2 pages) of each presenter. Panel proposals should include 3 speakers and a discussant. Any questions or queries can be sent to
Logistics and Fees
Registration fee: HK$ 1,500. The fee will include all meals, but no accommodation or travel expenses. The conference organizing committee will provide general guidance about finding convenient accommodations in Hong Kong.
Pending the availability of funding, the convenors will waive the conference fee and provide support for scholars with particular need on a case-by-case basis, such as current postgraduate students and early-career faculty.
Publication Plans
A selection of papers presented at the conference will be published in a double theme issue of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient.
Depending on the quality and the thematic cohesiveness of the conference papers, we will consider selecting additional papers for a co-edited volume to be submitted for publication at a major University Press.
Conference Convenors
  • Dr. Loretta Kim (Assistant Professor and Director of the China Studies Programme, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the University of Hong Kong)
  • Dr. Niccolò Pianciola (Associate Professor of History, Lingnan University, Hong Kong)
  • Dr. Paolo Sartori (Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences; Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Brill).