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Grant number like: FA-56632-12

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Steven B. Miles
Washington University (St. Louis, MO 63130-4862)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2013 – 12/31/2013

Diaspora and Empire: Cantonese in the West River Basin, 1570-1870

I propose to use an NEH fellowship to write a history of the Cantonese diaspora along the West River basin between the late Ming and late Qing dynasties. In this book, I will analyze a set of diasporic practices that Cantonese lowlanders from southern China’s Pearl River delta pursued upstream along the West River basin into the highlands of the southwestern Chinese frontier and the borderlands of Southeast Asia. Rather than seeing the highlands as a refuge for people fleeing the state, I show how states or empires can also attract people, and how members of at least one diasporic cohort used state expansion for social advancement. I argue that, in different ways, these practices served the interests of both diaspora and empire. My analytical perspective of viewing the frontier through the lens of the West River system sheds light on the ways in which a diasporic elite turned the imperial project of expansion to its own ends, enhancing the socioeconomic status of delta families.