This conference will aim to explore and assess the new strategies of activism which have emerged in China over the past decade. It will rely on a broad interpretation of activism and public engagement, ranging from public protests and anti-government discourse to dispute resolution at a local level. In particular, the conference aims to explore the ways in which the Chinese public has made use of changes in their public sphere to develop strategies for the promotion of ideas and dispute resolution. It will also aim to address the effect of the "individualization of Chinese society" (to use Yunxiang Yan's term) on activism, and to draw distinctions between activism done as a collective and performed by individuals.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the London riots, and the growth of "occupation" movements of Wall Street, new strategies of public activism are emerging and being debated. With China's fragmented authoritarian landscape, its conscious avoidance of electoral politics, and its increasingly complex public sphere, Chinese activists — whether urban or rural, individual or collective, local or internationalised — are developing novel and complicated ways of promoting their objectives and resolving their disputes. The plethora of public "mass incidents", the crackdown on lawyers and public intellectuals of early 2011, and the development of a transgressive and satirical online culture all provide new and substantial challenges to the stability and authority of the Chinese party-state.
The conference would particularly welcome papers covering:
- the emergence of a class of individual activists who work and promote their interests outside of corporatist bodies;
- independent candidates for local election in China, and their struggles with the state;
- the party-state's response to particular well-known activists and public intellectuals (Ai Weiwei, Chen Guangcheng, Liu Xiaobo, Hu Jia, and so on) who have worked against the state;
- strategies used by individual activists (use of media, direct action, petitioning and law, etc.); and
- clashes, whether conceptual or practical, between corporatised organisations (for example, NGOs or quasi-NGOs, the state's law enforcement apparatus, including the relatively new "stability maintenance" structure) and individuals.
Beyond this, however, papers providing a comparative or strategic perspective on different forms of activism (comparing the urban and the rural, or the online and the offline, for example) would also be very much welcomed.
GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION OF PROPOSALS
Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words) and a brief biographical sketch (150 words or less).
Proposals should be emailed to Dr Jonathan Benney at firstname.lastname@example.org before 31 January 2012.
Successful applicants will be required to send, approximately one month before the conference, a paper of about 5,000-8,000 words based on unpublished material.
Based on the quality of proposals and the availability of funds, partial or full funding is available for successful applicants. Full funding would cover air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the conference. Participants are also encouraged to seek funding for travel from their home institutions.
Dr Jonathan Benney
Postdoctoral Fellow, Asia Research Institute, NUS
Dr Peter Marolt
Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, NUS
Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Tel: (65) 6516 5279
Fax: (65) 6779 1428
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