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Activist Resilience under Repression:  The Role of Bystander Protection in the Burmese Pro-Democracy Movement

Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 8:00pm

Virtual Event

Part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty Lecture series

Mai Van Tran, Ph.D., Department of Government, Cornell University

What accounts for the survival and long-term commitment of activists to social movements under repression? I argue for the role of an important yet oft-neglected player: civilian bystanders and observers of opposition activism. I propose that protective support by ordinary citizens helps the activists to escape crackdowns and bolsters their attachment to their movement. To test my argument, I study hard cases for activist survival during both protest and non-protest periods under the two decades of Burmese military rule 1988-2010, with an original qualitative dataset consisting of semi-structured interviews and written testimony of more than 100 ordinary citizens and former pro-democracy activists in Myanmar. The novelty of this dataset is the unprecedented number of voices from the average, non-contentious general public, which are mostly missing in existing research on social movements. This approach generates a novel perspective to better understand opportunities and constraints around movement entrepreneurs. 

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Lecture, Webinar


Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Government, Southeast Asia Program, Asian & Asian American Center





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James Nagy

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Mai Van Tran

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Cornell University

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