China seminar 7 May: Civil society concept as a tool for making the other: the case of China

China seminar

7 May, 2014, 15:15    ——   Arsenaal, room 001 (Arsenaalstraat 1, Leiden)


Taru Salmenkari (Leiden University)


Civil society concept as a tool for making the other: the case of China


The application of the concept of ‘civil society’ to China in Western academic studies is one devise for “othering” China. Despite of its vivid grassroots social life (categorized as minjian in China), academic treatises do not merit the term civil society for China. At best, civil society in China is claimed to be “nascent,” far from a mature civil society. At worst it is said to be nonexistent. This paper analyzes the reasons for the different usages of the term for China and for “the West,” including the use of the term civil society when researchers actually search for oppositional movements and the failure of separating trajectories of economic liberalization and of associational life. This definitional deficiency causes problems when it is reflected back to Chinese academic research and associational life. Too narrow definitions hinder the development of Chinese civil society, when many phenomena common in Western civil societies are defined as undesirable in China.



May 21, 2014: Hilde De Weerdt (Leiden U): “The Communication and Empire Project: Digital and comparative perspectives on middle-period Chinese history”

June 4, 2014: Yangdon Dhondup (SOAS) “Alliances and strategic networks: Tibetan Buddhist lamas and the Qing court”