Social, Political, and Cultural Dynamics of Collective Actions in Asia

Title: 1148 | Social, Political, and Cultural Dynamics of Collective Actions in Asia
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Pinar Temocin, Hiroshima University, Japan (organizer, chair, discussant)
Licia Proserpio, University of Bologna, Italy (presenter)
Yuxuan Wang, Lehigh University, United States (presenter)
Lina Koleilat, The Australian National University, Australia (presenter)


Academic studies of social movements focus on social, political, and cultural centered approaches. The main social movements that have occurred since the 60`s have their own actors and all of them play an important role in shaping the discourses. over mobilizations. It is significant to analyze the actors involved in the movements and characteristics shaping the trajectory of mobilizations. In this regard, we offer five approaches toward mobilizations and their interpretations in Asia.

Our proposed panel is based on activism in Asia with several crucial aspects. The topics include nuclear activism in Japan, environmental movement in China, Chinese nationalism and Hong Kong protests, the depiction of female activists in Hong Kong cinema, student activism toward education in Myanmar, and transnational solidarity based on religion in South Korea

This panel expects to provide a deeper and intellectual understanding of activism dynamics. It is hoped that these several approaches would contribute to the academic literature based on contemporary Asian activism.

Panel Abstracts:
Re-framing Student Contention in Myanmar: An Analysis of the Recent Mobilizations Against the Higher Education Reform
Between September 2014 and March 2015, Myanmar university student’s organizations, gathered under the umbrella of the “Action Committee for Democratic Education” (ACDE), launched a cycle of protests against the new “National Education Law” (NEL) promulgated by Thein Sein’s civilian government. The presentation will analyze this nation-wide mobilization, which reached its climax in the 404-mile march from Mandalay to Yangon repressed by the armed forces, in order to highlight the new trajectory of the student movements that came back on Myanmar’s political stage in 2012, as the current political transition phase began.Since colonial times and for more than fifty years of authoritarian military regimes, student movements have represented the country’s “vanguard in the vacuum” or, metaphors aside, the nation-wide underground political opposition to the aforementioned regimes. According to some studies published after the beginning of the recent Myanmar’s political transition, Myanmar student activism is nowadays in a declining phase and students are becoming a-political actors.In light of the data gathered in fieldwork activities carried out by interviewing students, activists, and policy makers, the presentation aims at showing that also in the current socio-political environment student movements are maintaining their national political relevance by finding a new common objective to pursue: contesting the most recent Higher Education (HE) reform. This reform started in 2012 found its ultimate expression in the NEL, passed in 2014, which has been the cause of contention for the ACDE students that lead the first nation-wide protest of Myanmar university students against the neo-liberal university model joining the wider wave of similar protests launched in both Global North and South in the last years.

Nationalism in mainland China amid Hong Kong Protests
As the protests against extradition law in Hong Kong are escalating, Hong Konger’s quest for freedom has been widely reported by western media, but the nationalist sentiment from mainland China toward the protesters has drawn less attention. Focusing on the mainland Chinese nationalism amid recent Hong Kong protests, I argue that there is a paradox embedded in mainland Chinese’s nationalist sentiment and their attempt to incorporate Hong Kong people into their nation, as this attempt to incorporate is a denial of Hong Kong’s history and Hong Kongers’ unique cultural identity. Chinese nationalist sentiment toward Hong Kong protesters is partly driven by the memory of national humiliation, and I point out that although the sentiment expressed out of the “value rational” (Varshney, 2003) emotional need has been utilized by the political elites to achieve instrumental ends such as legitimating CCP’s rule, it helped mainland Chinese resist territorial invasion and find their own path to economic development throughout the 20th century. However, I demonstrate that this nationalist sentiment possesses a sense of self-expansion in addition to self-empowerment. With the rapid economic development in China, nationalist sentiment intensifies out of the need to assert the superiority of the political system in mainland China, especially when Hong Kong’s economic development increasingly relies on mainland China. I conclude that the nationalism that has helped mainland Chinese find out their own path to economic empowerment now denies people in Hong Kong the opportunity to further develop their society in line with their unique cultural identity.

Transnational Solidarity Networks: A View from Gangjeong Village, Jeju Island
This paper explores how transnational solidarity networks are built and maintained between anti-basemovement activists in South Korea, the United States and Okinawa. Based on in-depth interviews andethnographic research I conducted in Gangjeong village, Jeju Island between 2013 and 2015, and focusingon a specific Catholic community resisting the Jeju Naval Base, I provide a fine grained analysis of howthese transnationalsolidarity networks develop and unfold on the ground. The literature on transnationalsolidarity networks is extensive, however not much of the literature focus on the role of religion, orprophetic activism in building and maintaining these solidarity networks. Transnational solidaritynetworks do not only help the movements spread and make allies, they also help the movement sustainitself, reinvent its identity and reinstitute its legitimacy. A central contribution that these networks provideis the setting of a transnational agenda linking the issues at hand with global concerns and giving activistsand the movement a reach beyond the boundaries of their nation states. This paper seeks to highlight what happens when these transnational solidarity networks fundamentally share a religious worldview that connects them, a religious worldview that is entrenched in the political identity of the activists involved.

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