The Department of Anthropology Colloquium Series Presents

Crafting a Tibetan Terroir: Wine Production, Identity, and Landscape Change in Shangri-La

Brendan A. Galipeau
Annette and Hugh Gragg Postdoctoral Fellow in Transnational Asian Studies
Rice University
Chao Center for Asian Studies

Friday, March 8, 3:00 pm, Saunders Hall 345

This talk describes an ongoing book project based upon long-term research with rural agricultural communities in Tibetan Southwest China; a region officially designated and named “Shangri-La” by the Chinese government for tourism promotion.  Over the past 15-20 years, vast areas of land have been transformed into monocrop vineyards for government promoted “Shangri-La Wine,” among other brands also marketed using Tibetan culture and the pristine environment of this Himalayan region.  Much of this marketing is also based upon a local history of French and Swiss Catholic missionaries who first introduced grapes and wine making during the late 19th century.  Despite these marketing developments of natural wine products with a historical nature, the emergence of this industry has led to rapid development in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides introduced by wine company representatives and government extension workers, the effects of which are not always lost on local communities.  In this work I draw upon the French concept of terroir or “taste of place,” to compare and contrast two divergent approaches to landscape transformation surrounding viticulture in Shangri-La: Local household industries built off of individual village narratives and organic production methods, versus large scale corporate projects that have moved entire communities off of subsistence agriculture with heavy agrochemical intensification that forces communities to rely on grapes as their sole crop with an uncertain future.  This work engages with ongoing discussions regarding capitalist agrarian change and transformations in China, and is particularly relevant in capturing the nascent reconfiguration of landscapes as complex engagements among the state, corporate capital, and local (ethnic and religious) communities.

Brendan A. Galipeau received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa in 2017, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Transnational Asian Studies at Rice University’s Chao Center for Asian Studies. An environmental anthropologist, his research and publications focus on hydropower resettlement, agriculture, water, climate change, and pollution in Tibetan Southwest China. He is currently at work on a book manuscript under contract with the University of Washington Press, titled Crafting a Tibetan Terroir: Wine Production, Identity, and Landscape Change in Shangri-La. His work has previously appeared in a variety of publications including Asian Ethnology, Human Ecology, Himalaya: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, and Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment.