Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, a Conversation with Christian Sorace

Claiming sixty-nine thousand victims, the earthquake that hit Sichuan province on 12 May 2008 not only took an enormous toll in human lives, but also had a major political impact in China. In his book Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, Christian Sorace examines the political mechanisms at work in the aftermath of the tragedy. We spoke with the author.

Ren Hang: Bodies Without Redemption

Mostly naked, friends and models of Ren Hang appear on a rooftop with skyscrapers as the backdrop, in a forest of tall trees, in a field invaded by wild grass, in a pond with budding lotuses, on a lonely rock hit by waves, or in a bathtub amongst swimming goldfish. Their naked bodies and limbs are […]

Protecting Sacred Commons

This essay explores a particular kind of viticulture in Tibetan communities in northwest Yunnan province. While mainstream wineries emphasise modernity at any cost without much concern for the environment, these Tibetan grape growers pursue an ecologically-friendly agenda meant to protect ‘common’ sacred landscapes. Reasons for this choice include observations of chemical degradation of the land, Buddhist ethics, and new conceptions of how ethnic representation can be exemplified by more ecologically-friendly forms of commodity production.

Amateurism and Our Common Concern for Biodiversity

Treating the environment as a common resource often implies not only local, but also supra-local, even global, collectives of concerned stakeholders. While engaging with local actors, these stakeholders frequently insist on the need for a ‘professional’ approach. Examining an international project aimed at introducing biologically diverse agroforestry in a county in southwest China, this essay describes a more ‘amateur’ approach adopted by one international organisation. It argues that this amateurism demonstrates that, even within global professional organisations, there is an appetite for a new, more spontaneous, approach that values local knowledge and practices.

Making Class and Place in Contemporary China

Rural-to-urban migrants in China are often depicted as being poor, uncivilised, and having a lower level of ‘human quality’ than those with urban household registration. Policy-makers carefully strategise in order to produce rural-to-urban migrants as a homogeneous category. However, the use of this term obscures more than it illuminates, as it homogenises complex social realities.

From Village to City: An Interview with Andrew Kipnis

Andrew Kipnis’ new book, From Village to City: Social Transformation in Chinese County Seat (University of California Press, 2016), paints an extraordinary portrait of Zouping, a county in Shandong province, challenging our current understandings of modernity and putting forward a new theory of urbanisation. We spoke with the author.

Losing the World: After the Moose Have Gone Away

Sometimes the plans to improve people’s lives end up destroying them. When the Chinese government moved the nomadic Evenki people from the forests into urban settlements and confiscated their hunting rifles, they took away their livelihood. Gu Tao’s film The Last Moose of Aoluguya documents how people survive, or slowly destroy themselves, after the catastrophe of losing their world.

Burmese Civil Society Challenges China’s Development Assistance in Myanmar

China and Myanmar have been economic partners and allies for a long time. But this partnership is now being challenged by Myanmar’s democratisation process. Although nascent, Burmese civil society has shown it is ready to actively contest the legitimacy of China’s various development and commercial interests in this new democracy.

Meet the State Security: Chinese Labour Activists and Their Controllers

Chinese labour NGOs have to deal with several state bodies. Still, given their reliance on foreign funding and the political sensitivity of labour issues in China, the agency they have the most dealings with is probably State Security, a secretive branch of the public security apparatus charged with protecting the country from domestic political threats. How do labour activists manage to navigate this challenging terrain?

The Rise of Foundations: Hope for Grassroots Civil Society in China?

Over the past decade, the not-for-profit foundation sector has grown rapidly in China. This expansion has occurred as international foundations and organisations were withdrawing funding from Chinese grassroots NGOs, causing many civil society leaders to put their hopes into domestic foundations as a way to close their deficit of funding. But can the rise of foundations in China really replace the evaporating foreign grants for domestic NGOs?

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