I will introduce some case studies from my forthcoming book, Opportunity in Crisis: Cantonese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China, which explores the history of Cantonese migration along the West River basin during war and reconstruction and the impact of these developments on the relationship between the state and migrant elites on the Guangxi frontier. By situating Cantonese upriver and overseas migration within the same framework, I also reframe the late Qing as an age of Cantonese diasporic expansion rather than one of state decline. For my presentation, I will focus on two ways in which the reintegration of Guangxi into the Qing realm, in the wake of mid-century rebellions, created opportunities for Cantonese migrants: first by turning the civil service examinations toward their own ends and second by colonizing the lower echelons of the Qing bureaucracy in Guangxi.
Steven B. MILES is a sociocultural historian of late imperial China, with chronological emphasis on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and geographical expertise in southern China. He is the author of four books: The Sea of Learning: Mobility and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Guangzhou (Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2006), Upriver Journeys: Diaspora and Empire in Southern China, 1570-1850 (Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2017), Chinese Diasporas: A Social History of Global Migration (Cambridge University Press, 2020), and Opportunity in Crisis: Chinese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China (forthcoming, Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2021). Miles is a professor in the Department of History and Director of the East Asian Studies Program at Washington University in Saint Louis. Since January of 2019, he has served as editor-in-chief of the journal, Late Imperial China.