Bin Xu, The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China
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In The Politics of Compassion, Bin Xu offers a compelling account of the dynamic yet unexpected wave of civic activism after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China. An unprecedented number of people volunteered to support the disaster relief effort; even more importantly, they were predominantly channeled through civic associations rather than state organizations. The authoritarian state was also surprisingly tolerant of these grassroots organizations and activities. One question that naturally arises is what sets this particular disaster apart from other disasters and major events in China that enabled widespread, independent popular mobilization? Xu answers this question with a deep, rich ethnography of activists’ actions, circumstances, actions, and the meanings they constructed to interpret their volunteerism.
Xu argues that the high level of activism after the 2008 earthquake is explained by a “crisis consensus”, composed of “the challenges to the state’s administrative capacity;...
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