Lynette Ong
East Asia, Government & politics, Human rights & justice, Munk School, Asian Institute

Lynette Ong's Outsourcing Repression receives Best Book Award from the International Studies Association

The International Studies Association (ISA) Human Rights Section has awarded Professor Lynette Ong with the 2023 ISA Human Rights Section Best Book Award for her book, Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China (Oxford University Press). The award committee recognized the book for “outstanding empirical research and the focus on everyday oppression, which offers fresh insights into a society and its daily human rights violations”. Awarded annually, the honour is given to the best book in the field of international studies with a copyright dated the year before the nomination. The ISA will officially confer the award in March at the 2023 ISA Annual Convention in Montréal.

The culmination of over a decade of fieldwork and research, Outsourcing Repression examines the ways in which the Chinese government enlists nonstate actors to enforce urbanization, using a range of low-level violent and nonviolent means. In a Q&A about the book, Ong said she started on in 2011 wanted to understand the political economy of urbanization in China. But in the course of her fieldwork, she became more interested in how Chinese authorities were using local influencers to clamp down on the public. 

“As I spent more time in the field talking to ordinary folks, I was drawn by the prevalence of these practices,” said Ong. “Almost everyone knew about it or had first-hand experience – and yet they were grossly understudied in scholarly literature. I felt compelled to dig deeper.”

Ong, a professor in the University of Toronto’s department of Political Science, jointly appointed to the Munk School’s Asian Institute, is an expert on China, having conducted on-the-ground research in the country since the late 1990s. Her research interests lie at the intersection of authoritarianism, contentious politics, and development. Outsourcing Repression is her third book. Her other two works are 2022’s The Street and The Ballot Box, which looks at Malaysia’s Bersih movement; and Prosper or Perish, a book about credit and fiscal systems in China that was published in 2012.