Dr. Ann Hill, Anthropology

Valley & Ridge Comes to Class

As a leader, along with Jeff Niemitz, of this summer’s Valley and Ridge Goes to China, I returned to campus with new perspectives on communities in China that I have known for almost 20 years.  The trip’s focus on local landscapes and sense of place has had an immense impact on how I talk about and present these communities in the course of my teaching, whether it’s about China or anthropology more generally.  Of course I have access to other participants’ photos, as well as my own, and these are great for visually complicating the popular perception in this country that China is indifferent to climate change and environmental pollution.  The fact is, and our group’s photos show this, that rural communities in China use many alternative “green” energy sources, some of which are supported and promoted by the government, while others are adopted by local people because they are cost-effective.  Yet, our students also need to understand that green technology will have no impact on climate change as long as the volume of China’s CO2 emissions continues to increase. 

This fall I am teaching a First Year Seminar, Culture and Environment in Upland Asia, that draws on readings with substantial discussions of environmental issues in both China and Thailand.  My lectures, too, reflect concerns with people’s impact on the fragile environments in the mountains of the Sino-Southeast Uplands, where deforestation has been the main reason for the degradation of local ecosystems and a significant contributor to persistent rural poverty.   In spring 2015, I am teaching a course on religion that will have more content than previous versions on connections between indigenous knowledge (what exactly that means and what are its limitations), so-called sacred landscapes, and ritual as a nexus between people and their local environment.  I look forward to exploring these new areas as both a teacher and scholar.