Standoff and Improvisation in Eventful Protests: Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement

Oct 4 10:30am–12:00pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Ho Ming-Sho (Professor, Department of Sociology, National Taiwan University)
Chair/Discussant: Paul Y. Chang (Associate Professor of Sociology, Harvard University)

*Please note 10:30 am start time*

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Taiwan's Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement of 2014 belong to an unusual case of "eventful protests" for their large-scale and intensive participation as well as radical transformation in consequences, which require new conceptual tools to make sense of their trajectories. The speaker will develop the notion of "standoff" to understand the contentious interaction between protesters and the government. While these two incidents are not so-called "leaderless" movements, sustained occupation will not be possible without voluntary and the on-the-spot strategic responses among grassroots participation. Theorized as "improvisation", the talk will also examine the functions and the limits of these bottom-up contributions. With growing institutionalization of the research field of social movement and contentious politics, mostly focusing on the routinized social protests in democracy, the notions such as standoff and improvisation call attention to the rare, albeit significant moments when people are able to make their own history.