Research Interests: Rural land use and biodiversity conservation; animal geographies; sacred landscapes;
historical geography/environmental history, property, possession, and personhood;
Sino-Tibetan Borderlands; Southern China-subtropical cultural ecologies
Teaching Interests: Political ecology; philosophies and religions of East Asia; geography of nature conservation;
critical spatial theory; property, possession, and personhood
PhD & MS, Louisiana State University BA, Wesleyan University
Dr. Coggins’s research focuses on rural China, political ecology, biodiversity, sacred
landscapes, protected area management, globalization, and property/possession. He
has led students and faculty on eight trips to China since 1999, six of which have
involved intensive field research. He is the co-editor of Sacred Forests of Asia: Spiritual Ecology and the Politics of Nature Conservation (with Bixia Chen; Routledge, 2023) and Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes of the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands (with Emily Yeh; University of Washington, 2014). He is the author of The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture, and Conservation in China (University of Hawaii Press, 2003) (runner-up for the 2003 Julian Steward Award for
best book in environmental/ecological anthropology and nominated for the Kiriyama
Prize in nonfiction). He is also the co-author of The Primates of China: Biogeography and Conservation Status — Past, Present, and Future (China Forestry Publishing House, 2002). He has published refereed articles in many
geography, environment, and Asia-related books and periodicals. Since 2011, he has
led teams engaged in a multi-year, mixed methods, field and archival research project
on the fengshui forests of southern and central China. His work on the history of
humans and tigers in China has been featured on BBC 4’s Natural Histories. Dr. Coggins has been teaching at Simon’s Rock since 1998.
CNN (Cable News Network), August 16, 2020, “Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than nearly any city. But 60 years ago, tigers were
still seen in the wild” (References to my research on tigers in southern China).
Washington and Jefferson College, “The Ecological State and Ecological Civilization:
Who Will Rise to Meet China’s Global Environmental Challenges?” Keynote Address at
7th Annual Pittsburgh Asia Consortium Undergraduate Research Conference, Washington,
PA March 30, 2019.
Elected as a member of the ASIANetwork Speakers Bureau. ASIANetwork is a consortium of 170 colleges and universities with programs or other
curricular components in Asian Studies.
Co-author of The Primates of China: Biogeography and Conservation Status — Past, Present, and Future, published by China Forestry Publishing House, 2002.
2011–2018: With funding from ASIANetwork, The American Philosophical Society, and
the Luce Foundation LIASE (Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment),
Dr. Coggins has led teams of faculty and students from Simon’s Rock, Bard, Bard affiliates,
and other colleges and universities in the US, China, and Japan in a multi-year field
research project on the sociocultural and ecological characteristics, past and present,
of southern China’s village fengshui forests. This is the first systematic multi-province
research on these community-protected sacred groves, which are found in 10–14 provinces
in central and southern China. Their publications are among the first English language
works on this subject. The study aims to explain how and why the groves have been
systematically protected for centuries; to map their present regional distribution
and analyze their ecological effects, particularly in terms of biodiversity and local
water quality; and to learn what local people, government, and other conservation
stakeholders are doing to protect this remarkable legacy. LIASE funding also supports
an annual student research conference on Asia and the environment, held each April
at Bard College, and has provided a forum for students from Simon’s Rock, Bard, and
other institutions to share their research results in a supportive environment.
Selected Book Chapters and Articles
“Human Activities and Species Biological Traits Drive the Long-term Persistence of
Old Trees in Human-dominated Landscapes,” in Nature Plants. May 11, 2023. Li Huang, Cheng Jin, Yingji Pan, Lihua Zhou, Siwei Hu, Yanpei Guo,
Yuanyuan Meng, Kun Song, Mingyue Pang, Hong Li, Dunmei Lin, Xiaoting Xu, Jesse Minor,
Chris Coggins, C.Y. Jim, Enrong Yan, Yongchuan Yang, Zhiyao Tang, and David B. Lindenmayer.
“Local cultural beliefs and practices promote conservation of large old trees in an
ethnic minority region in southwestern China,” in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. Volume 49, March 2020, 126584. Li Huang, Lijuan Tian, Lihua Zhou, Cheng Jin, Shenhua Qian, C.Y. Jim, Dunmei Lin,
Liang Zhao, Jesse Minor, Chris Coggins, and Yongchuan Yang. (2020).
“Biogeographic and anthropogenic factors shaping the distribution and species assemblage
of heritage trees in China,” in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. Volume 50, April 2020, 126652. Li Huang, Cheng Jin, Mingming Zhen, Lihua Zhou, Shenhua Qian, C.Y. Jim, Dunmei Lin,
Liang Zhao, Jesse Minor, Chris Coggins, Bo Chen, Yongchuan Yang. (2020).
“China's Community Fengshui Forests — Spiritual Ecology and Nature Conservation,”
in Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in Protected Areas, Ed. By Bas Verschuuren and Steve Brown. Authors: Chris Coggins, Jesse Minor, Bixia
Chen, Yaoqi Zhang, Peter Tiso, James Lam, Cem Gultekin. Routledge (2019).
“Sacred Watersheds and the Fate of the Village Body Politic in Tibetan and Han Communities
Under China’s Ecological Civilization,” in Religions Special Edition on “Religious Environmental Activism in Asia: Case Studies in Spiritual
Ecology,” Edited by Leslie E. Sponsel 2019, 10(11), 600; 29 Oct 2019
“Conserving China’s Biological Diversity: National Plans, Transnational Projects,
Local and Regional Challenges” in The Routledge Handbook of China's Environmental Policy. Ed by Eva Sternberg. NY: Routledge. (2017).
“Village Fengshui Forests of Jiangxi Province” in Forests and Humankind 2014 (12) (Chinese/English).
“Animate Landscapes: Nature Conservation and the Production of Agropastoral Sacred
Space in Shangrila” with Gesang Zeren, in Emily Yeh and Chris Coggins (eds), 2014,
Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
“When the Land is Excellent: Village Fengshui Forests and the Nature of Lineage, Polity,
and Vitality in Southern China” in J. Miller, D. Yu and P. van der Veer (eds.), 2014,
Religious Diversity and Ecological Sustainability in the People’s Republic of China. New York: Routledge.
“‘We Work the Black Seam Together’ Ritual Politics and the Educative Ethic of Tending
Delirium” (with P. Mabry), in Educating Outside the Lines: Bard College at Simon’s Rock on ‘a new Pedagogy’ for
the Twenty-first Century, 2011.
“The Fate of the ‘Lord of a Hundred Beasts’ in the Wilds of Southern China,” in R.
Tilson and P. Nyhus (ed.), 2010, Tigers of the World: The Science, Politics, and Conservation of Panthera tigris. New York: Elsevier Press. View PDF
Refereed journal articles in: Asian Geographer, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Geographical Review, Journal of Cultural Geography, Policy Matters, Proceedings of New England — St. Lawrence Valley