Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China

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Friday, January 12th, 2018

Friday, January 12, 20183:00PM - 5:00PMThe Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, 1 Devonshire Place (Devonshire Pl. & Hoskin Ave.)
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The launch of Mobilizing without the Masses: Control and Contention in China written by Diana Fu (University of Toronto) and published by Cambridge University Press (2017).

“When advocacy organizations are forbidden from rallying people to take to the streets, what do they do? When activists are detained for coordinating protests, are their hands ultimately tied? Based on political ethnography inside both legal and blacklisted labor organizations in China, this book reveals how state repression is deployed on the ground and to what effect on mobilization. It presents a novel dynamic of civil society contention – mobilizing without the masses – that lowers the risk of activism under duress. Instead of facilitating collective action, activists coach the aggrieved to challenge authorities one by one. In doing so, they lower the risks of organizing while empowering the weak. This dynamic represents a third pathway of contention that challenges conventional understandings of mobilization in an illiberal state. It takes readers inside the world of underground labor organizing and opens the black box of repression inside the world’s most powerful authoritarian state.”

Author Bio:

Diana Fu is an assistant professor of political science at The University of Toronto and an affiliate of the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs. Fu’s research examines the relationship between popular contention, state power, and civil society in contemporary China. Her book Mobilizing Without the Masses: Control and Contention in China, is to be published in 2017 with Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics Series and Columbia University’s Studies of the Weatherhead East Asia Institute. It examines state control and civil society contention under authoritarian rule. Based on two years of ethnographic research that tracks the development of informal labor organizations, the book explores counterintuitive dynamics of organized contention in post-1989 China.

Articles that are part of this broader project have appeared in Governance (2017), Comparative Political Studies (2017), The China Journal (2018), among others.

Diana Fu graduated with distinction from Oxford University (M.Phil. in Development Studies and D.Phil in Politics), where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Prior to joining the department, she was a Walter H. Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. She was also a Predoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fu’s research has been supported by the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation, and the Rhodes Trust.

Fu’s writing and research have appeared in The Economist, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, Boston Review, Nick Kristof’s On the Ground Blog (The New York Times), PostGlobal, and Global Brief.

To purchase the Kindle copy of the book follow this link

Visit Diana Fu’s website by clicking here


Shannon Garden-Smith
(416) 946-8996


Joseph Wong
Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, University of Toronto Ralph and Roz Halbert Professor of Innovation, Munk School of Global Affairs Professor, Political Science, University of Toronto

Diana Fu
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto; affiliate of the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs

Michael Bernhard
Inaugural Raymond and Miriam Ehrlich Eminent Scholar Chair in Political Science at the University of Florida

Dan Slater
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan

Randall Hansen
Opening Remarks
Interim Director, Munk School of Global Affairs.

Antoinette Handley
Closing Remarks
Associate Professor, Chair, Department of Political Science

Main Sponsor

Asian Institute


Department of Political Science

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