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Face-to-Face. An ethnography of forms of association in contemporary China

WOA 20 Umschlag_Hardcover.inddÉric Florence, « Isabelle Thireau (ed), De Proche en proche. Ethnographie des formes d’association en Chine contemporaine (Face-to-Face. An Ethnography of Forms of Association in Contemporary China), », China Perspectives, 2014/1 . URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6408

This volume originated in a research collaboration project (2006-2009) among Chinese and French sociologists and anthropologists seeking to “observe the processes of action, association, and coordination.” It analyses the multiple “forms of joint actions and collective initiatives, often disorganised and sometimes fleeting occurring in Chinese society now” (p. 11). While the texts assembled do not take a common theoretical approach, they nevertheless share an anchoring in solid ethnographic work and pay special attention to communication, both oral and written (p. 13).

Furthermore, despite the diversity of contributions, Isabelle Thireau’s introduction picks out several elements that could serve as kernels of the various contributions: the importance of a certain number of spaces (or their destruction) for “face-to-face” interactions or more virtual venues whether private or public, enabling the establishment of an “inter-subjectivity,” base for concerted action; the role “of promises, agreements, and engagements” and their importance for the social tissue in China today; a plurality of “us” noted in situations of association, cooperation, and action, as well as in “choices of action” and a diversity of “links between possibilities and choices”; and finally, accomplished collective actions with different modalities of public “visibility” (pp. 14-19).

The wealth and complexity of social relations dealt with by the various contributions reflects another transversal issue in all the texts in this volume, that of different modalities of links between those who mobilise and form associations on the one hand and state agents on the other. These relations may include asymmetry, reciprocity, mutual dependence, cooperation, instrumentalisation, and co-optation.

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Video: presentation by Isabelle Thireau (in French)



Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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