Pey-Yi Chu

Associate Professor of History
With Pomona Since: 2012
  • Expertise


    Pey-Yi Chu teaches courses on modern European history, environmental history and the history of science. A historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, she is interested in how ideas about nature have been shaped by culture, politics, economic practices and physical environments. Her first book, The Life of Permafrost: A History of Frozen Earth in Russian and Soviet Science (University of Toronto Press, 2020) tells the history of permafrost as a scientific idea in order to uncover its multiple, contested meanings. By tracing the English word permafrost back to its Russian roots, The Life of Permafrost reveals the political and cultural contexts for investigating frozen earth and demonstrates the contributions of Russian and Soviet science to contemporary global understandings of the environment. Pey-Yi Chu's current project explores how indigenous knowledges in Siberia shaped Russian and Soviet earth sciences.

    Areas of Expertise


    • Modern European history
    • Russian Empire
    • Soviet Union
    • Environmental history
    • History of earth sciences
  • Work


    Chu, Pey-Yi. The Life of Permafrost: A History of Frozen Earth in Russian and Soviet Science. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.

    Chu, Pey-Yi. “Encounters with Permafrost: The Rhetoric of Conquest and Processes of Adaptation in the Soviet Union.” In Eurasian Environments: Nature and Ecology in Imperial Russian and Soviet History, 165–184. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018.

    Chu, Pey-Yi and Andrew Stuhl. “Reorienting World Environmental History: Pedagogy and Scholarship on Cold Places.Environment and History 23, no. 4 (November 2017): 601-616.

    Chu, Pey-Yi. “To Dig a Well (in Siberia).” Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia Summer 2017, no. 13. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

    Chu, Pey-Yi. “Mapping Permafrost Country: Creating an Environmental Object in the Soviet Union, 1920s–1940s.Environmental History 20, no. 3 (July 1, 2015): 396–421.

    Chu, Pey-Yi. "Vladimir I. Vernadsky, The Biosphere (1926): Excerpts and Commentary," in The Future of Nature: Documents of Global Change, edited by Libby Robin, Sverker Sörlin, and Paul Warde, 161-173. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

  • Education


    Ph.D. in History, 2011
    Princeton University

    M.A. in History, 2006
    Princeton University

    B.A. in History, 2003
    Stanford University

    Recent Courses Taught

    • Global Environmental Histories
    • Modern Europe since 1789
    • Researching the Cold War
    • The Russian Revolution
    • The Science of Empire
    • World War Two
    • Critical Inquiry Seminar: Cold Places