|Chris Courtney is Associate Professor of Modern Chinese History at the University of Durham, UK. He a social and environmental historian who focuses upon the city of Wuhan and its hinterland. His monograph The Nature of Disaster in China, which examined the 1931 Central China Flood, was awarded the 2019 John K. Fairbanks Prize. Chris has published on topics including the history of environmental religion, fire disasters, Maoist disaster management, and the history of air-conditioning. He is currently compiling an edited volume entitled Cooling Asia with Jiat-hwee Chang. His new monograph is tentatively entitled Wuhan – A World History.|
Cooling technologies have revolutionised the modern world. Innocuous machines like electric fans, air-conditioners, and refrigerators have redesigned our homes, transformed our diets, and preserved our medicines. This talk examines the impact that these technologies have had upon Asia. It describes some of the ways that people coped with heat in the past, before exploring how new technologies were introduced and adapted to Asian societies. It looks at the alternative cooling strategies that developed in countries like Maoist China, which did not possess market economies. Finally, it details the environmental problems cooling technologies are causing, asking whether alternatives are possible.