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Lecture: Authoritarian Citizenship in China

May 17, 2018 | 12:00 PM

Diana Fu (Toronto) / Greg Distelhorst (MIT). Brown bag lecture in cooperation with Chinese Studies Institute.

How is citizenship understood and articulated by ordinary people under authoritarian rule? This study analyzes discourses of citizenship in contemporary China using James Scott’s concept of “public transcripts” (1990)—everyday communication between ordinary citizens and government officials. The public transcript teaches us about citizenship by showing how individuals play the role of a citizen deserving of attention from government authorities. Although recent scholarship emphasizes a growing authoritarian legality in China, we demonstrate other scripts of citizenship that draw on other traditions. In appealing to the government, some citizens portray themselves as subjects before benevolent officials. Others invoke the moral obligation of officials to provide socioeconomic wellbeing and everyday justice. Articulations of authoritarian citizenship remain diverse, with some affinities to Western political thought but also important continuities with historical conceptions of rights in China.


Diana Fu is an Assistant Professor of Asian Politics at the University of Toronto. Her research examines the relationship between popular contention, state power, and civil society in contemporary China.

Website: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/polisci/diana-fu

Greg Distelhorst is an Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at MIT. He is also an investigator with The Governance Project at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. His research focuses on global trade and worker rights, as well as politics and policy in contemporary China.

Zeit & Ort

17.05.2018 | 12:00

Neubau "Holzlaube", Room 2.2058

Time & Location

May 17, 2018 | 12:00 PM

Holzlaube 2.2058
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin