McLellan, Timothy: Travel Grant - 2017-2018

Graduate School
Project Title: 
Ethics and Expertise in the Shadow of Authoritarianism: An ethnography of agro-ecological scientists in southwest China
Project Abstract: 
It is well documented that intellectuals and activists working in China are subject to significant state supervision and regulation. In this respect, research has documented the lengths that NGOs, journalists and academics in authoritarian states often go to in order to protect themselves from rebuke by state agencies. Nevertheless, scholars have mostly overlooked the question of how intellectuals and NGOs conceptualize this cooperation with the state as an ethical and conceptual rather than merely practical problem. Taking the International Institute for Agroecology (IIAE) – a China-based research-for-development institute concerned with agricultural ecosystems and rural livelihoods – as a case study, this ethnographic project asks: how do scientists, and their administrative staff, conceptualize their regulation by and their cooperation with an authoritarian state? In answering this question I contribute to a debate in anthropology concerning how anthropology's research subjects can be co-theorists of ethics, politics and social relations.