Victor SeowJun 29, 2022
Energy Regimes in Modern East Asia
Victor Seow’s Carbon Technocracy: Energy regimes in Modern East Asia (U Chicago Press, 2021) is an account of the modern “world that carbon made” through the case study of the Fushun colliery in Manchuria. “Carbon technocracy” is a system dedicated to the optimal exploitation of fossil fuel resources. It is, as Seow shows, a system of consistent waste, environmental degradation, and labor exploitation, built on a fantasy of inexhaustible energy reserves mobilized toward endless and accelerating development. Fushun exemplifies the violence, contradictions, and, as we discuss in this interview, failures of imagination of successive Japanese, Chinese Nationalist, and Chinese Communist regimes. Carbon Technocracy balances macro-level questions about the mutual constitution of nation and global energy regimes with a sensitivity to individual laborers caught up in these machinations.
Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.