Mark Driscoll Discusses Western Imperialism in 19th Century Asia

February 19, 2021

In the first installment of the Spring 2021 Wednesdays at the Center Series, Dr. Mark Driscoll discussed Western imperialism in Asia in the 19th century and how his climate of “climate caucasianism” established a system of racist environmental destruction that has persevered through modern times. 

Driscoll, Associate Professor of East Asian and Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was joined by moderator Leo Ching, Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University.

During his lecture, Driscoll drew on the concepts he lines out in his newly published book, The Whites Are Enemies of Heaven: Climate Caucasianism and Asian Ecological Protection (Duke University Press, 2021). In the book, Driscoll utilizes an array of primary sources in Chinese, Japanese, and French to recontextualize the Opium Wars as a key moment in both the emergence of extractive, coal-fed capitalism and the destruction of Qing China’s world leading carbon-neutral economy. He also discusses how subaltern actors, such as outlaw societies and dispossessed samurai groups, became ecological protectors, protecting their land from the rampant and extractive “climate caucasianism”.

The event was part of the 2020-21 "Wednesdays at the Center" special series: "John Hope Franklin | Global Anti-Racism (Histories of Action.)" The event was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center, the Duke Center for International and Global Studies (DUCIGS), and the Duke Asian/Pacific Studies Institute (APSI).

Watch the full event:

Extra-Acting and Extracting Whiteness: Mark Driscoll (University of North Carolina) and Leo Ching (Duke University)