Professor Emily Yeh is a Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she researches the nature-society relationship in political, cultural and developmental relations in the mostly Tibetan parts of China. Although she majored in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, while interning in China, she realized that her understanding of sustainable development needed to be further explored. Her first visit to Tibet proved to be life changing, and Yeh has committed her career to advocating for environmental justice for the Tibetan people. In this conversation, Professor Yeh discusses her climate justice work for Tibetan herders, her experience at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and how climate change is impacting Tibetans’ ability to keep their culture alive.  


Emily Yeh, University of Colorado

Emily T. Yeh is a professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder. Professor Yeh conducts research on nature-society relations and development, mostly in Tibetan parts of the PRC. She has written about the political ecology of pastoralism, conflicts over access to natural resources, vulnerability to and knowledge of climate change, the cultural and ontological politics of nature conservation, and the conjunctural production of environmental subjectivities. Her book Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development (Cornell University Press 2013) explored the intersection of political economy and cultural politics of development as a project of state territorialization. She is also co-editor of Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands and of Rural Politics in Contemporary China, and author of more than 55 articles and chapters. She regularly teaches classes on political ecology, development, environment and society geography, contemporary China, and research design. She served as President of the American Association of Geographers in 2021-22.

About Key Conversations 


Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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