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Postgraduate Seminar - James Miller, Religious Studies, Queen's University, Canada

Date: 18 June 2007 Time: 4.30-6.00 pm

'Humans Must Defeat Nature': Chinese Doctrines of Human Supremacy over the Environment James Miller, Religious Studies, Queen's University, Canada

Monday 18 June, 4.30-6.00 Institute for Advanced Studies, Meeting Room 1

This paper presents a historical and theological analysis of the slogan "humans must defeat nature" (ren ding sheng tian) which attained popularity in the Maoist period in China, and which stands today as a symbol of China's anti-environmental modernization policies. This concept has been analyzed by Judith Shapiro in Mao's War Against Nature (Cambridge University Press 2005), chiefly in terms of Maoist political ideology. This paper, however, places this slogan in the context of China's long-standing philosophical and theological speculation about the proper ordering of humans, heaven and earth, and argues for an understanding of "tian" (which can be translated as "heaven" or "nature") as the cosmic forces beyond the ambit of human technological mastery. To understand this slogan thus requires going beyond the political realm to consider the changing context of nature, technology, and the sacred in modernity and its impact on twentieth century China.

This seminar is organised jointly by the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and the Department of Religious Studies. For more information, please contact Bronislaw Szerszynski, ext 92659, email

All welcome.


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
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