The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.
— Michel Foucault

REpression & Contention


Fu, Diana. 2018.  "Mobilizing Without the Masses: Control and Contention in China." Cambridge University Press, Contentious Politics Series.  Columbia University Weatherhead Series on East Asia. 

*Winner of the 2018 American Political Science Association’s Gregory Luebbert Award for Best Book in Comparative Politics published in the previous two years.

*Winner of the 2019 International Studies Association’s International Political Sociology Award for best book

*Co-Winner of the 2019 American Sociological Association’s Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship book award

How does the authoritarian party-state govern civil society organizations? Under repression, how do weak citizens mobilize?  Based on eighteen months of political ethnography inside informal labor organizations in China (2009-2011), this project analyzed both state repression and civil society contention under Hu Jintao. 


Fu, Diana and G. Distelhorst.  2018. "Grassroots Participation and Repression under Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping." The China Journal.  

Covered in Reuters

How has repression of civil society transformed under the current administration?  Are there remaining channels for political participation?  A new study finds that while political opportunities for contentious participation has closed, institutionalized participation channels remains open.

Fu, Diana.  2017. “Disguised Collective Action in China.” Comparative Political Studies.  Vol. 50, No. 4, 499-527.  Methods appendix published online, Oct. 2016.  

*Co-Winner of the Best Article Published by Comparative Political Studies in 2017.

It is forbidden for civil society groups in China to coordinate collective action.  Any group that organizes protests or demonstrations runs a high risk of being repressed.  Under such conditions, how does civil society bypass these constraints?  Based on first hand participant observation inside labor organizations, this study finds that activists deploy "disguised collective action" which hides organizing behind a facade of atomized actions.

Fu, Diana.  2017.  "Fragmented Control: Governing Contentious Civil Society in China. Governance.  30(3): 445-462.  

*Winner of the 2019 American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Scholarly Article Award in Labor and Labor Movements

Contrary to the assumption that a high capacity authoritarian state can stamp out all unwanted activism, the study finds that the local states deploy fragmented repression.  Different arms of a single local state simultaneously repress, co-opt, and facilitate illegal activism.  In the cracks, underground civil society groups survived under Hu Jintao.

Fu, Diana. 2009. “A Cage of Voices: Producing and Doing the Dagongmei in Modern China.” Modern China. Vol. 35 No. 5, June: 527-561.

“I have a stomach full of words, but I just can’t say them” is a statement often uttered by migrant women in contemporary China. Using this as a point of entry, this article explores the paradoxical role that an influential Beijing women’s organization plays as both a site of articulation and a cage that limits and contains the marginal voices of migrant women.

Authoritarian citizenship

What does it mean to be a “good” citizen or a “bad” dissident in an authoritarian state?  How do state and society co-construct meanings of citizenship through producing “public transcripts”—ritualistic communication between rulers and the ruled?  This new project studies authoritarian citizenship by examining “public transcripts”—on-stage exchanges between power-holders and the powerless.  These transcripts provide a rich source of empirical data for examining how ordinary individuals perform citizenship on an everyday basis.  The project also theorizes how dissidence—the antithesis of “good citizenship” is constructed and disseminated by the authoritarian state.

Fu, Diana and G. Distelhorst. 2019 "Performing Authoritarian Citizenship: Public Transcripts in China." Perspectives on Politics.

Covered in The Economist

This study draws upon on an original database of over 8,000 letters scraped from mayoral governments’ websites across China in 2013.  Based on a close reading of five hundred letters, the study theorizes three ideal types of authoritarian citizenship: subjecthood, authoritarian legal citizenship, and socialist citizenship.