For January, we are continuing our dialogue with a second round that focuses on movements in East and Southeast Asia. The Occupy Central and Umbrella movements in Hong Kong have attracted the attention not only of social movement scholars, but of the global media as well. As the world watches the movement engage the governments of Hong Kong and China, we want to take a step back and reflect on the work the movement has done to bring it to this point, as well as on movements in broader East and Southeast Asia. Keeping in mind that movements emerge in particular contexts, we asked our contributors to focus on the ways that movements in the region have particular challenges and tools. We consider such questions such as: How have technology, the Internet, and broader media played a facilitating or suppressing role in Southeast Asian movements? How have the traditional religions of the region, and the imported religions of colonizing powers, influenced movements there? How has the emergence of China as a world power affected movements in the region? To what extent have international forces, transnational movements, and diffusion played a role in supporting movements in the region? What have movements in the region taught us about repression and authoritarian states? Thank you to all of our contributors for their submissions, below is a list of their essays.
Andrew Junker, University of Chicago (essay)
Cole Carnesecca, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Ming-sho Ho, National Taiwan University (essay)
Setsuko Matsuzawa, The College of Wooster (essay)
Victoria Tin-Bor Hui, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Paul Y. Chang, Harvard University, (essay)
Yan Long, Stanford University (essay)
Vince Boudreau, The City College of New York (essay)
Jolan Hsieh, National Dong Hwa University (essay)
Yang Su, UC Irvine (essay)
Chris King-Chi Chan, City University of Hong Kong (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Dan Myers
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got a copy of LeBon’s The Crowd that I keep meaning to read. Of course I’ve internalized what we all now think he was saying—protestors are crazy!—because social movement scholars have spent the last thirty years insisting that protestors are rational actors behaving in politically salient ways. But I’ve got this nagging curiosity that I keep meaning to do something about: Maybe LeBon was writing about a fundamentally different time. Maybe protests and protestors were different. That’s not what this post is about, because I’ve not pulled LeBon back down from the shelf.
Anyway, it was with this general line of curiosity that an article from the Times of India struck me broadside: Protestors against a proposed nuclear power station were made to undergo psychological counseling. What’s this now? Seriously? The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has been protesting for some time, but as best I can tell from a quick perusal of the web, this is the first time there’s been an attempt to brainwash them. Maybe it’s not brainwashing, maybe it’s less sinister. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has demanded an explanation from the Indian government. No other details seems to be publically available at this point. Also noteworthy: this psychological intervention follows on the heels of a government investigation of the possibility that PMANE’s work is supported by “foreign funds.” The investigation led to the detainment and deportation of a German national.
There’s no need to belabor the analysis here. India is truly a social movement society. I’ve never been to India when there wasn’t a bandt or strike or sit in or walkout or protest that effected trains, taxis, rickshaws, airplanes, government workers, women carrying water, men breaking stones, and a thousand other activities and sectors. So a protest against a new reactor is nothing new. But at a time when western security forces are developing more and more refined responses to large-scale protests, it seems that the Indian government is moving LeBon-ward. Diagnosing the protestor as patient and administering the cure.
Which brings us back to The Crowd. I wonder if LeBon got some things right about the world he lived in. Maybe, like the Fantastic Mr. Fox tells Rat, “certainly she lived, we all did. But it was a different time; let’s not use a double standard.” But then when I see the Indian government treating protest like a disorder I settle back into the conventional wisdom: LeBon was crazy. I guess I really should read his book.