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Accepted Paper:

Solidarity, inclusion, or strategies of governing? Anthropological reflections on the dynamics between activism and governance in the field of migrant self-organization in China.  
Jun Chu (ISInova)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores negotiations within the dynamics between activism and governance in the context of Chinas rural-urban migration. The ethnographic case study of a migrant NGO shows the outcomes of the appropriation of grassroots solidarity network by the urban policy of differential inclusion.

Paper long abstract:

Over the last decade, the circumstances of activism and social movements in China have changed radically. Particularly in the area of labor and migrant activism, research faces challenges on the theoretical and methodological level. During the intensified process of Chinas urbanization, the quest for the “right to the city” of rural migrant workers intersects with their individual dreams and hopes for the future. Meanwhile, the entanglement between governmentality and activism in the NGO area attracts increasing scholar attention.

Based on my ethnographic case study of a migrant self-organization in Hangzhou between 2014 and 2017, this paper draws focus on its volunteer program and explores the negotiating process within the dynamics between migrant activism and urban governance. My analysis focuses on the paradigm shift of volunteering from activistic self-help to individualistic self-development in the organizational context, which was embedded in the shifting logic of mobilization during the transformation of the previous solidarity-based grassroots network into a volunteer network instrumentalized by the state-led “community volunteerism”. Moreover, my investigation reveals that their attempt to produce positive self-representation of migrant volunteers as “new urban citizens” caused rather unexpected outcomes: not only was their representation appropriated by the uncritical academic knowledge production, but also the logic of exclusion within the migrant group was reinforced. These results emphasize the importance of more sophisticated approaches of anthropology to the transformative rolls of activisms and movements in the contemporary societies.

Panel P164b
Times of crisis, times of hope? Movements and collaborations between transformative potential and reification [Anthropology and Social Movements Network]
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -