James B. Duke Assistant Professor, Asian Studies

Furman Hall 224C

  • Current disciplinary research interests

      I have conducted anthropological fieldwork relating to educational practices, cultural heritage politics, NGOs, and social change in Chinese urban and rural societies. Much of my research has involved working with the Na (Moso) people located in tourist zones around Lugu Lake and in villages in agricultural areas farther from the tourist zones. I helped to found the Cool Mountain Education Fund in 2005, which assists students in Sichuan, China and promotes educational innovation in schools. I have spoken in two Portland-based radio interviews, commenting on the growing movement to make shark fin possession illegal, and written an article that discusses debates about shark fin prohibitions amidst competing cultural and ecological claims: "Culinary Controversies: Shark Fin Soup and Sea Creatures in the Asian Studies Curriculum," published in Education about Asia, Winter 2011.

  • Interest in connecting sustainability to research

      I was part of the Oberlin 2020 project while an undergraduate and have been very concerned with environmental issues since then. One could characterize my research in Na communities as concerned with social sustainability and resilience. At Portland State University, where sustainability was one of the cross-campus issues, I learned to integrate teaching about sustainability into many courses.

      As a newcomer to Furman, I can also see plenty of ‘low-hanging fruit’ in terms of campus infrastructure, and would love to offer some suggestions for improving Furman’s approach to waste reduction and energy consumption.

  • Center-funded research projects

      Resilience in Mountainous Southwest China: Adopting a Socio-Ecological Approach to Community Change

      Now that the word 'sustainability' is firmly ensconced in the consciousness of many academics, universities and the broader public, some scholars of socio-ecological theory are questioning whether sustainability is the most appropriate goal. With ecological and social systems in constant flux, they argue that resilience, not sustainability, provides a more effective model for understanding how contemporary societies can maintain healthy relationships with their environments (however those may be defined). Resilience also provides a window to reflect how communities themselves can adapt to a rapidly changing set of political, economic, and social circumstances.

      To examine how changing economic opportunities and increased involvement of state actors have affected social and ecological resilience, the researcher will visit southwest China, which offers an opportunity to explore resilience on personal, household, and village-wide levels. These communities offer excellent spaces for investigating how people have adapted to changing state policies and opportunities, for better or for worse from a socio-ecological perspective. By studying the particularities of how these adaptations have occurred, we may better understand how policies can encourage resilience without mandating a particular, inflexible course of action.

  • Sustainability courses taught

      My freshman writing seminar, FYW 1169: Debunking the Myths of China, discusses environment and sustainability in China.

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