Transnational Activism in Asia: Problems of Power and Democracy

Transnational Activism in Asia: Problems of Power and Democracy

Transnational Activism in Asia: Problems of Power and Democracy

Transnational Activism in Asia: Problems of Power and Democracy


This book provides new perspectives on transnational activism with a specific regional focus on Asia. By offering an innovative approach, its theoretical chapters and empirical case studies examine macro as well as micro aspects of power and how cross-border activities of civil society groups are related to problems of democracy.


New perspectives on transnational activism

Nicola Piper and Anders Uhlin

This book attempts to contribute to the growing literature on social movements and other civil society groups operating across state borders. Building on recent research in this field, our aim is to fill a significant gap by contextualizing transnational activism within broader power structures between state and civil society organizations as well as between non-state organizations, and by providing an analysis of how this is related to problems of democracy. By including a balanced selection of theoretical chapters as well as theoretically informed empirical case studies based on recent data, this book provides new insights into the problematic of political activism in a transnational context. The specific regional focus in the case studies is East and Southeast Asia, which constitutes an understudied geographical area in the transnational social movement/civil society literature (as opposed to Europe, North America and Latin America).

The chapters in this volume address various questions: What kind of actors are involved in transnational activism? What types of activism do they employ? Whom do the networks/activists target? What kinds of obstacles and/or opportunities do state power and other power structures constitute for transnational activism? How can we understand the power of transnational activist networks in terms of discursive or communicative power? To what extent is democratization an enabling condition and/or a consequence of transnational activism? How can we differentiate between different levels and aspects of democracy in this respect? To what extent can transnational activism promote transnational democracy? What about internal democracy and problems of inequality within transnational activist networks?

We start this introductory chapter by providing a brief overview of the existing literature and then move on to elaborate the concept of ‘activism’ in a transnational context. We define our understanding of the ‘transnational’ in its multiple forms and argue in favour of using the concept of ‘transnational’ instead of ‘global’. We also clarify the different types of actors involved in transnational activism. Drawing on the chapters in the present book and previous research, we offer an elaboration of what a power perspective and a focus on problems of democracy can contribute to our understanding of transnational activism. Finally, we contextualize the conceptual discussion with the situation in East and Southeast Asia.

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