The University of Arizona

Managing sandstorms through resettling pastoralists in China: how multiple forms of power govern the environment at/across scales

Qian Zhang

Abstract


This study uses concepts of power and 'scaled politics' to analyze the effects of environmentalization and technocratic and market-based measures in China. Political scientists have explored the politics behind the proactive engagement of the Chinese state in governing the environment since the 2000s, also drawing on political ecology. Based on policy document analysis and ethnographic fieldwork, the study investigates a case of ecological resettlement in Inner Mongolia by examining how this became a new solution to desertification and rangeland degradation. The article shows how resettlement was implemented through multi-scalar practices and the reconfiguration of spatial relations, and why pastoral households responded to resettlement in certain ways. The state turned certain areas and people (associated with overgrazing) into subjects of governance. By distinguishing the different strategies used by central and local government, the analysis shows that disciplinary and neoliberal environmentality are associated with scalar practices between the state and the people, and within the state system. Neoliberal environmentality, however, counteracts the making of environmental subjects and encounters resistance. Sovereign environmentality is still deployed as a means to control local government and the obedience of herders. Pastoralists resist this, depending on their different subjectivities. The study advances our understanding of the multiple governmentality perspective, its analytics, and scalar processes. 


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2458/v25i1.23045