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Jon Felt -Postimperial Metageographies of Early Medieval China
September 16, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Jon Felt, Brigham Young University
For a long time the imperial metageography has been the dominance spatial framework though which people have studied the history of China. This metageography exaggerates the unity and centrality of the imperial court in China and of China in the world—hence the popular idea of “the Middle Kingdom.” The foundational tenets of this imperial metageography were established in the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE). But after the fragmentation of this political order, literati examined alternative metageographies for making sense of their place in the world. It was at this time that the genre of geographical writing (diliji 地理記) first appeared. In this new body of texts, literati articulated postimperial metageographies that challenged the concepts of the unity of China, the human mastery of nature, and the centrality of China in the world. These metageographies are interesting for making sense of a period disparaged as “The Age of Chaos” (220–589). But more importantly, they provide alternative spatial frameworks for looking at all of Chinese history in entirely new ways, ways that highlight people who are traditionally obfuscated in imperial and nationalist histories, and ways that deconstruct what it is we are even talking about when we use the term “China.”