Summer Institute for Chinese Studies

June 1 – June 6, 2020

Ecological Civilization and Chinese Studies

The goal of the University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Institute for Chinese Studies is to provide early career scholars (PhD awarded since 2014) with intensive training in curriculum development and pedagogy to expand and strengthen Chinese studies.  Last year’s Summer Institute (2019) focused on Science, Technology and Medicine. This year (2020), the committee has decided to focus on the theme of Ecological Civilization as considered by John B. Cobb, Philip Clayton, and Wm. Andrew Schwartz through their affiliation with the Institute of Ecological Civilization in California.

 Scholars from any discipline in the social sciences and humanities who study the environment in China are encouraged to apply. 

“Ecological civilization” has come to define a global approach to a sustainable, healthy, and equitable future.  As a response to climate change, the realization of this ideal entails a radical transformation of deeply imbedded social, political, and cultural patterns of production and consumption that are intimately linked to unsustainable growth and development.  As such, ecological civilization entails a fundamental change in thinking about the human condition in relation to the environment.  It is a bottom-up approach to structuring society by considering what is best for the greater good.  Defining the “Asian century” and the manifest challenges of global growth and development, China in the 21st century is at the leading edge of the future: the transformation of the ideals of ecological civilization into practice.  The Chinese congress adopted the concept as a goal within its constitution in 2012 and included the goal in its five-year plan.

Equally important to economic and geopolitical considerations are the ways in which ecological civilization—as an ideal; as a program; as a national agenda; as a global social movement—animates the cultural imagination, finding expression in literature, art, and music.  Considering this it is important to examine the many ways in which the environment and environmental concerns have often been central to the development of politics, economics, public health, art, literature and music in various epochs in Chinese civilization.  One can point to many obvious examples—Sung landscape painting; Taoist philosophy; feng shui geomancy; herbal drugs and the use (and abuse) of exotic animals as medicine; monumental architecture and hydrological engineering; and the connection of peasants to the land in the imagination of revolutionary leaders of the past century.  As the importance of environmental concerns to wellbeing becomes more evident in the context of the crisis of climate change, it is useful and instructive to reconceptualize the importance of the environment to Chinese studies more broadly.

The Summer Institute for Chinese Studies 2020 will bring together scholars from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to focus on the environment, ecology, and civilization in China.  The goal is to better understand the relationship between ecology and environmental concerns in the past and the present and to reflect on the challenge of realizing a future in terms of “ecological civilization with Chinese characteristics.”

To apply for the 2020 Summer institute, please click here.