Ecologies of Comparison

An Ethnography of Endangerment in Hong Kong

Ecologies of Comparison

Experimental Futures

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Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 2 figures Published: September 2011

Author: Timothy Choy

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Science and Technology Studies

A rich ethnography of ecopolitics in Hong Kong in the late 1990s, as the region shifted to Chinese sovereignty, Ecologies of Comparison describes how ecological concepts of uniqueness and scale resonated among environmentalists, including those seeking to preserve a species of white dolphin, to protect an aging fishing village from redevelopment, and to legitimize air quality as an object of political and medical concern. During his research, Tim Choy became increasingly interested in the power of the notion of specificity. While documenting the expert and lay production of Hong Kong’s biological, cultural, and political specificities, he began comparing the logics and narrative forms that made different types of specificity—such as species, culture, locality, and state autonomy—possible and meaningful. He came to understand these logics and forms as “ecologies of comparison,” conceptual practices through which an event or form of life comes to matter in environmentalist and other political terms. Choy’s ethnography is about environmentalism, Hong Kong, and the ways that we think about environmentalism in Hong Kong and other places. It is also about how politics, freedom, culture, expertise, and other concepts figure in comparison-based knowledge practices.


“[A]n exquisite anthropological account of how recent environmental campaigns in Hong Kong resonate with social and political dilemmas surrounding its return to Chinese sovereignty.Choy’s book provides a reviving breath to the study of environmentalism and to our understanding of postcolonial Hong Kong.” — Julian M. Groves, Anthropological Quarterly

“This beautifully written book urges us to take another look at some of our most important tools for thinking. What do comparisons do? Why do we use examples? When does it matter if components of our world are specific to their times and places? Ecologies of Comparison offers a stimulating tour into both Hong Kong’s environmental politics and the work of political analysis itself.” — Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

“Tim Choy’s much-anticipated meditation on the many forms of life to be found in Hong Kong environmentalism is a bracing read. Taking knowledge itself as his object, Choy shows how the deep complicity of ethnography, theory, and politics offers not only profound challenges to scholarly practice but also new opportunities and horizons. Ecologies of Comparison is original, contemporary, and resonant. A true breath of fresh air.” — Hugh Raffles, author of Insectopedia and In Amazonia: A Natural History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tim Choy is Associate Professor in the Science and Technology Studies Program and the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Note on Transliteration xi

1. Problems of a Political Nature 1

Passions 19

2. Endangerment 23

Slow 51

3. Specific Life 53

Chess 73

4. Articulated Knowledges 76

Hair 106

5. Earthly Vocations 109

Hiking 137

6. Air's Substantiations 139

Notes 169

Bibliography 185

Index 199
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Winner, 2013 Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for the Social Studies of Science

Honorable Mention, 2012 Gregory Bateson Prize, presented by the Society for Cultural Anthropology

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4952-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4931-0
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