The Alley-Level State: Residents and Neighborhood Organizations in Beijing and Taipei
A talk by BENJAMIN L. READ (UC Santa Cruz)
Most East and Southeast Asian countries feature dense networks of organizations at the neighborhood and village level that are cultivated if not directly managed by the state. Beijing's Residents Committees (jumin weiyuanhui) and Taipei's Neighborhood Heads (lizhang) share many characteristics, yet also contrast in that the former are essentially appointed by the authorities while the latter vie for their positions in open and competitive elections. Extensive participant-observation, interviews, and surveys all shed light on the behavior of these ultra-local institutions as well as the ways in which residents perceive and interact with them. Though they differ from and even compete with the kinds of independent associations that we think of as civil society, they enjoy substantial popular support in both cases, and in some neighborhoods are closely intertwined with local community. The Taiwanese case shows that even state-fostered institutions growing out of an authoritarian past can become channels for bottom-up demands and representation.
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Benjamin L. Read is an assistant professor in the Politics Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research on local organizations in China and Taiwan has been published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, the China Journal, and the China Quarterly. He is the editor of Local Organizations and Urban Governance in East and Southeast Asia: Straddling State and Society (forthcoming)
Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2009