Ruth RogaskiFeb 10, 2023
Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian Borderland
University of Chicago Press 2022
Among all the world’s most storied and legend-filled regions, the place known to some over time as ‘Manchuria’ has had an especially wide range of ideas projected onto it. Everyone from Manchu emperors to Chinese exiles, European missionaries, Korean poets, indigenous shamans, Russian botanists, Japanese colonists and socialist planners have sought to know and understand this region, framing its vast forests, mountains, plains and earth according their own political, spiritual or scientific priorities over the past 400 years.
Ruth Rogaski’s extraordinary new book Knowing Manchuria: Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian Borderland (U Chicago Press, 2022) shows how these acts of knowing have brought multiple Manchurias into existence as people, culture, nature and ecology have been entangled in diverse ways at different points in time. Today, perhaps befitting its status as a contested and layered borderland space, ‘Manchuria’ itself is a contested term, but this only makes Rogaski’s beautifully written multi-perspectival and multilingually-sourced history of this fascinating region all the more valuable.
Ed Pulford is an Anthropologist and Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and indigeneity in northeast Asia.