Mark E. Frank

 Mark Frank

Contact Information

East Asian Languages and Cultures
2090A Foreign Languages
M/C 146
PhD Candidate
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I was born to American parents in Castries, St. Lucia and grew up there, moving to the US shortly before college. The prospect of learning a non-Indo-European language prompted me to take my first trip to Beijing in 2005 for undergraduate study abroad. I contemplated getting a graduate degree in Chinese linguistics but discovered that I was more interested in Chinese history. I’ve returned to China at least once every year since 2007 and have lived in Beijing, Qingdao, Chengdu and the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Gardze, accumulating a total of nearly five years in the mainland as well as travel experience in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Research Interests

  • Modern Chinese history, modern Japanese history, environmental history, agricultural history, history of everyday life

Research Description

My dissertation, "The Rooted State: Plants and Power in the Making of Modern China's Xikang Province," chronicles the 1939 establishment of a new Chinese province in the mountainous Kham region from an ecological perspective. Drawing on a rich base of unpublished archival sources, I look at everyday life along what I call the "grain line," or the environmental limit of intensive grain cultivation. While grain agriculture is broadly understood to have played a role in the rise of civilization as it is commonly understood, I argue that more modern power structures, including the nation-state, are also deeply indebted to certain types of human-plant relationships. Beyond this, the way that various populations interacted with flora and fauna played a fundamental role in Chinese constructions of ethnic and gender identities.


  • MA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • BA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



  • EALC 288B: Cultural History of Chinese Revolutions (Spring 2015)

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Frank, Mark E Planting and its Discontents: Or How Nomads Produced Spaces of Resistance in China’s Erstwhile Xikang Province Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities 3 2017, p. 112-141.