Funded Research Workshop Invitation/ Call for Papers
Straddling State and Civil Society: Government-Linked Grassroots Organizations in Asia
Scholars whose research is most suitable will be invited to a workshop at the University of Iowa, sponsored by a fund in the name of Benjamin F. Shambaugh, scheduled for the spring of 2005. We aim to publish the best papers in an edited volume.
Benjamin L. Read, Asst. professor, University of Iowa, Dept. of Political Science, Email: email@example.com
Robert Pekkanen, Asst. professor, University of Washington, Jackson School of International Studies. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In recent years, scholars have appropriately paid much attention to the development of Asian forms of civil society – citizens’ organizations that are autonomous from the state. In this project, we investigate something different: organizations that engage widespread participation yet are not autonomous but linked to the state in various ways. These groups can be said to “straddle” the state-society boundary. In many cases they receive resources and legitimation from the authorities, who in turn draw on them for purposes like disseminating information and facilitating administration or policing. Some of these organizations are meant to embody (or impose) a form of local “community” that is integrated with the nation as a whole. At the same time, they typically provide a channel through which ordinary people can articulate demands, address local issues, and sometimes vote for representatives.
Cases of this form of organization appear in many parts of the world, but appear particularly abundant in Asia. Some are loosely descended from imperial or colonial institutions of social control or taxation, while others have more recent origins. They exist in democracies and authoritarian systems alike. Similarly, the groups range from those more closely linked to, or existing as part of, local government, such as China’s Residents’ Committees, to those with formal autonomy, such as Japan’s neighborhood associations. Examples include:
Indonesia’s ultra-local organizational structures (rukun warga [RW], rukun tetanga [RT])
Taiwan’s networks of neighborhood heads, village heads, and their subordinate block captains (lizhang, cunzhang, linzhang)
Singapore’s grassroots organizations under the People’s Association (e.g. Residents= Committees and Neighbourhood Committees)
China’s Residents’ Committees and Villagers’ Committees (jumin weiyuanhui, cunmin weiyuanhui)
South Korea’s system of neighborhood meetings (bansanghoe)
Vietnam’s residents’ clusters and residents’ groups (cum dan cu, to dan pho)
What is interesting about these “straddlers”? Quite a bit, we think. In some cases they may be partially understandable through existing theoretical ideas such as corporatism, Leninism, clientelism, or political mobilization by a dominant party. Yet these notions only begin to provide insight. The questions we seek to understand include:
What are the origins of these institutions? How have they evolved over time?
How do they interact with their constituents or members? What kinds of participation do they foster? Do people consider them helpful or oppressive?
Do they inhibit or encourage the development of civil society?
Do these groups promote social capital? If so, what can we learn about social capital itself from the way government-linked groups promote it?
Do these groups facilitate or work against good governance? How important are they in helping to implement programs like welfare, household registration, and family planning?
We would like to hear from people who are doing empirically well-grounded research on these kinds of organizations. Many methodologies could be appropriate, from archival work to case studies to surveys to ethnography. Scholars from any discipline would be welcome—for example, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, political scientists, economists or scholars of public policy. As noted above, scholars whose research is most suitable will be invited to a workshop at the University of Iowa, sponsored by a fund in the name of Benjamin F. Shambaugh, scheduled for the spring of 2005. We aim to publish the best papers in an edited volume.
We would also be most grateful to receive citations for existing studies of some of the more obscure cases mentioned above (particularly the Indonesian, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Korean, and Vietnamese cases), or others that have escaped our attention. We would likewise be grateful for names and contact information of relevant scholars who might not see this announcement, or for suggestions on places to effectively publicize this workshop.
Please contact Ben Read at email@example.com and also Robert Pekkanen at firstname.lastname@example.org (please send the email to both organizers)
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