Promoting ecological civilization: Social construction of nature and the production of Maca in Yunnan, China

Authors: Duo Yin*, South China Normal University, Hong Zhu, Guangzhou University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Cultural Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: ecological civilization;social construction of nature;Maca production;Yunnan
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Traditionally, Yunnan is imagined as a frontier, or a natural and non-civilized place, while the heartland of China as civilized and advanced. This research seeks to question such a binary framework by focusing on the making of ecological civilization through a special nature-based commodity namely Maca in Yunnan.In the past decade, Maca production has deeply reshaped how different groups think and harness natural resources.The finding is threefold. First, we find that Yunnan was discursively promoted from a place of wildness to a civil place under the guise of the state project of ecologic civilization. Interestingly, the project does not deprive Yunnan of economic development, but rather aims to integrate it further into a national commodity chain by harnessing Yunnan’s local-specific natural environment. Maca is such an economic crop for local development. Second, the commodification of natural environment is built upon a dynamic partnership between local authorities and private developers.The rise and downfall of Maca sector in Yunnan demonstrates how this partnership is played out in shaping natural environment. Finally, we found that this unique ecological civilization has been accepted by local residents in Yunnan.Local residents seek to manoeuvre the state’s discourse of ecological civilization and empower themselves as entrepreneurial subjects in the market. These findings suggest that the state project of ecological civilization is implicated in social construction of nature, aiming to transform the frontier into a modern and developed area. In this process, different actors compete and compromise with each other to facilitate the logic of land-based capital accumulation.

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