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The Politics of Compassion: An Interview with Bin Xu

After a devastating earthquake hit China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, thousands of volunteers left their homes in other parts of the country and traveled to Sichuan to help victims of the quake. This outpouring of assistance surprised many Chinese, who for years had lamented about a perceived moral vacuum and lack of compassion in their society. As Emory University sociologist Bin Xu explains in his new book, The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford University Press), the 2008 earthquake threw a spotlight on civic engagement in the country, bringing non-governmental organizations and social networks that had previously been little-known onto the national stage. Xu has spent years investigating the dimensions of this civic engagement, first joining the volunteers as a participant-observer and subsequently conducting interviews with those who stepped forward to assist in Sichuan’s recovery from the earthquake. In The Politi ...

A Lexicon of Repression in Thailand

By Tyrell Haberkorn In an essay for the May 2017 issue of the Journal of Asian Studies (“The Anniversary of a Massacre and the Death of a Monarch,” currently free to download), I reflect on the fortieth anniversary of the 6 October 1976 massacre, when state and para-state forces brutally murdered unarmed students at Thammasat University in Bangkok. Unresolved questions about the possible role of the institution of the monarchy in the massacre have been a primary factor both ensuring impunity for the perpetrators and constricting public discussion about the massacre. The anniversary events, held under the military regime of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and marked by calls for recognition of the humanity of those killed, directly challenged the ongoing impunity of the perpetrators of the massacre. One week after the anniversary, Rama IX, Bhumipol Adulyadej, died and the crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, was named his successor as Rama X. One of the primary features of the NCPO ...

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