University of Colorado at Boulder

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Faculty | Department Chair

Emily Yeh

Nature/society geography; political ecology; cultural politics; development; Tibet; China

Associate Professor of Geography 

Human Geography | Environment-Society
Associate Faculty of CAS
303-492-5438 Gugg 103a  
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 2003

Research Interests

My main research interests are on questions of power, political economy, and cultural politics in the nature-society relationship. Using primarily ethnographic methods, I have conducted research on property rights, natural resource conflicts, environmental history, development and landscape transformation, grassland management and environmental policies, and emerging environmentalisms in Tibetan areas of China. In addition, I have also worked on the politics of identity and race in the Tibetan diaspora, and on several NSF-funded interdisciplinary, collaborative projects on putative causes of rangeland degradation and vulnerability to climate change on the Tibetan Plateau. Broader research and teaching interests include transnational conservation, critical development studies, the relationship between nature, territory, and the nation, and environmental justice. My regional expertise is in China, Tibet, and the Himalayas.

Selected Publications

Yeh, Emily T. and Chris Coggins, editors. (2014). Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landcapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands. University of Washington Press. .

Yeh, Emily T. (2013). Blazing pelts and burning passions: Nationalism, cultural politics and spectacular decommodification in Tibet. Journal of Asian Studies. 72(2): 319-334. .

Yeh, Emily T. (2013). Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development. Cornell University Press.

Yeh, Emily T. and Kunga T. Lama. (2013). Following the caterpillar fungus: Nature,commodity chains and the place of Tibet in China's uneven geographies. Social & Cultural Geography 14(3):318-340.

Yeh, Emily T. (2012). Transnational environmentalism and entanglements of sovereignty: The tiger campaign across the Himalayas. Political Geography 31:418-428 .

Publications updated July 2013

Recent Courses Include

Spring 2014  GEOG 5161-001 (3) Research Design in Human Geography

Fall 2013  GEOG 2412 (3) Environment and Culture

Graduate Students

political ecology; nature-society in Tibet/Nepal
Development; Political Geography; Cultural Geography; Tibet and Himalaya Region
Intersection of belief systems, landscapes, & conservation in high Asia
China's development role in the Horn of Africa
er rang
Ph.D. Alumni
Alternative Development on the Tibetan Plateau: The Case of the Slaughter Renunciation Movement
Ph.D. Alumni
Open Space? Environmentalism and the Politics of Belonging in Boulder, Colorado
Ph.D. Alumni
Ph.D. Alumni
From 'Retire Livestock, Restore Rangeland' to the Compensation for Ecological Services: State Interventions into Rangeland Ecosystems and Pastoralism in Tibet

What's New

In 2009, I received an NSF Career grant, “Culture and Conservation: Transnational environmentalism, sacred lands, and community organizations in Tibet,” which provides funding for five years to investigate the intersection of transnational conservation projects, China’s environmental movement, and Tibetan culture in the articulation of Tibetan environmental identities and the formation of Tibetan environmental groups. As part of the educational component of this grant (and with additional funding from National Geographic), in 2010 I produced a 20-minute educational film entitled “Shielding the Mountains,” about Tibetan cultures of nature, and China’s environmental movement. This film was designed for use in classes such as the one I teach on Environment and Culture, as well as more broadly for high school and undergraduate classes in environmental studies, geography and anthropology to teach about environmental movements, indigenous knowledge, sacred landscapes, ideas of nature, China, and Tibet.

I continue to work on two other NSF-funded grants with my graduate students, including one on climate vulnerability on the Tibetan Plateau, particularly looking at herders’ differential vulnerability to snowstorms, and the other a comparative look in two sites on the plateau at rangeland management practices and their relationship to grassland productivity, to address the question of putative causes of rangeland degradation.

I also received the 2010 Leopold-Hidy prize, for best article published in the journal Environmental History (in 2009), for my article, “From wasteland to wetland? Nature and nation in China’s Tibet.” Finally, I’ve been working very hard at a book manuscript about how development and state incorporation have worked through and upon the material landscape in Tibet from the 1950s to the present. The book manuscript is current entitled Development as Gift: State Incorporation and Landscape Transformation in Tibet, and develops an analytic of development as gift, which stresses the contradictions and ambiguities of development as a hegemonic project. It is based on more than 16 months of fieldwork over eight trips to Tibet between 2000 and 2009.

"What's New" updated February 2011

More Info

Despite living in Colorado and doing research in Tibet, I love the ocean and try to scuba dive when I get the chance. Fortunately, I also enjoy biking and hiking and most of all, playing capoeira, a Brazilian martial art. Most of non-work time, though, is spent playing with my son Osel and daughter Seldron.