Stacie Kent

  • Fellowship year:2013-2014
  • University: University of Chicago
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: China
  • Dissertation Title: Sovereignty, Law, and Capital: Governance in Treaty Port China
  • During the nineteenth century, trade, war, imperialism, and international agreements all changed how the Qing Empire governed commerce. Bi-lateral treaties intended to create a codified, transparent regulatory environment that would encourage an orderly foreign trade. In her dissertation, Stacie Kent shows how what developed instead was a system shot through with transgression, ambiguity, and struggles between the Qing and foreign governments to determine how to administer and modify the regulatory apparatus. In contrast to scholarship that has interpreted this history as the product of competing imperial political-economic interests and/or cultural difference, Kent's research views Qing-British incommensurability through a new analytical lens. This lens reconsiders the historical specificity of trade as a socio-economic practice and as an object of governance.

    Using a socio-structural approach that attends to relationships between forms of social interdependence, trade, and governance, she disentangles the origin of commercial regulatory problems from the different interpretations of these problems. Bringing these the two dimensions into conversation makes visible a process of structural transformation and demonstrates how both governments reacted to developments set in motion by treaty relations, but not effectively contained by them. British imperialism in China and transformations of Qing governance were mediated, this project suggests, by the global transit of the commodity form as a socio-economic practice and ideological form .