Solidarity Stalled: When Chinese Activists Meet Social Movements in Democracies

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This study analyzes a largely unexamined phenomenon in the studies of transnational activism: immigrant activists’ engagement in progressive social movements in their residence countries. Through participatory observation and interviews with the Chinese activist communities, this study explores how diaspora activists assess social movements in established liberal democracies in light of their experiences with organizing in a more repressive setting back home. Despite active involvement in social movements in their residence societies, these Chinese diaspora activists find the dominant models of activism in democracies to be overly institutionalized, lacking a sense of political urgency to push for real social change. The deeper and more intersectional understandings of social movements in democracies trigger positive reflections that help create new political subjectivities, but at the same time, they produce skepticism and disenchantment, lowering activists’ expectations about the power of international solidarity. By delving into activists’ transnational social movement experiences, this study critically interrogates the theoretical framework of diaspora politics and social movement learning and brings attention to the unintended consequences of transnational political engagement.




Zhao, M. (2021). Solidarity Stalled: When Chinese Activists Meet Social Movements in Democracies. Critical Sociology, 47(2), 281–297.

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