REpression & Civil society Contention
Fu, Diana. 2017. "Mobilizing Without the Masses: Control and Contention in China." Cambridge University Press, Contentious Politics Series. Also included in Columbia University Weatherhead Series on East Asia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This new project examines everyday online dialogue between ordinary Chinese citizens and their mayors. Drawing on a nationally representative sample of over 8000 letters to the mayor in 2013 across China, this study analyzes the "public transcripts" (Scott 1990)-on-state exchanges between rulers and the ruled in China today. It finds that contrary to popular assumptions, legal discourse is only one among a three articulations of authoritarian citizenship.
Fu, Diana and G. Distelhorst. "Performing Authoritarian Citizenship: Public Transcripts in China." Conditionally accepted at Perspectives on Politics.