Brian Spivey G'19

Brian  Spivey
Doctoral Student
History
University of California, Irvine

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants 2019
Doctoral Student
History
University of California, Irvine
Under a Westward Shadow: Gansu in the Reform Era

My dissertation is an environmental and social history of Gansu province from the late 1970s through the 1990s. China’s eastern provinces and megapolises, like Shanghai and Shenzhen, profited the most from Deng Xiaoping's market-oriented economic reforms enacted during this period. However, the high human, material, and environmental costs of those reforms were often borne further westward in poorer provinces like Gansu. My project foregrounds how the porous bodies and everyday living conditions of Gansu’s people were affected by forces such as increased pollution and urbanization, desertification, global capital networks, advancements in irrigation technologies and agricultural techniques, and the construction of dams and oil pipelines. Aside from highlighting China's stark east-west inequalities, I argue that we understand the reform period as an era of transition in the relationship between people and their environment alongside the already well-studied social, political, economic, and ideological transitions that define the Deng era.