CfP: Special Journal Issue on Imperialism and the Riverine Environment in Modern Asia

deadline for submissions: 
May 16, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Yiying Pan/Hong Kong Polytechnic University
contact email: 

CfP: Special Journal Issue on Imperialism and the Riverine Environment in Modern Asia



We propose “riverine environment” as a springboard for comparing histories of imperial control in modern Asia. Literature utilizing James Scott’s idea of “seeing like a state” identifies mountains, swamps, and forests as landscapes suited to imperial resistance and plains and river valleys as suited to imperial control. Rivers, however, have dual potential: they can support or impede the communication, agricultural, and commercial ambitions of empires. Using case studies from imperial Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we will discuss how empires remade rapids, riverbeds, floodplains, and watersheds to exert their agendas of irrigation, navigation, flood-control, and urban planning. 


This special issue has grown from a panel at the Association of Asian Studies 2022 annual conference. At the conference our panelists considered the relationships among imperial power, governance, knowledge, and riverine environments, broadly defined. Our dialogue highlighted the ways in which rivers and the people living in watery landscapes embraced and resisted the methods and aesthetics of imperial modernity. 


We are looking for additional papers to contribute to our critical investigations into the machines, infrastructures, and discourses developed by imperial states to support riverine projects and the ways in which these projects generated uneven access to spaces and resources. We are particularly interested in work that explores the entanglements of watery landscapes and imperialism in modern Asia that may offer insights into contemporary water crises on the continent.


If you are interested in being part of this special issue please submit an abstract of approximately 250 words to Yiying Pan ( and Erica Mukherjee ( by Monday 16 May 2022.



All those who send in abstracts will be notified by the first week of June 2022. Contributors should submit a draft for internal review by mid-August 2022. The editors of the International Journal of Asian Studies have expressed interest in this special issue; we anticipate submitting all papers to them in October 2022.