China Beat Archive


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March 31, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright 2010. Used by permission.


In this panel, organized by Siyen Fei (University of Pennsylvania), Mark Edward Lewis (Stanford University), Hilde De Weerdt (University of Oxford), and Fei presented papers that creatively engaged the work of G. William Skinner on how to conceptualize empire in time and space. Lewis proposed that the northern capital historically functioned as a peripheral center that connected the agricultural and economic centers found further south with the steppe, and this positioning, a prime concern of the dynasties founded by nomads, helped maintain China as a coherent empire. De Weerdt used social network analysis to mine Song dynastybiji for data that could model the level of connectivity of the elites that produced them. Fei explained her interest in emphasizing dynastic differences in the study of urbanization in China, arguing that the way rulers seek to order political/economic/social space has a strong impact on the types of urban development that take place. Discussant Kären Wigen’s comments pushed the conversation to include maritime frontiers, the merits of visual versus textual representations of data, and the intellectual dynamism within Skinner’s body of work.

This panel brought together scholars from history and geography, using the Pearl River Delta as the means to explore questions of regionality.