Date of Award

8-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Brooten, Lisa

Abstract

This thesis delves into civil society building in China by examining the development of one particular type of civil society organization (CSO), Environmental Non-governmental Organizations (ENGOs) in Wuhan, China. Using a theoretical perspective intersecting civil society studies and the participatory mode of communication for social change, I look into how environmental activists' collective efforts and their mobilization of grassroots initiatives help carve out a more independent civil sphere vis-à-vis the state as well as the market economy. Specially, using data collected during in-depth interviews and participant observation, I survey the institutional building of these ENGOs in terms of their financing, their organizational structure, and their solidarity building among activists and the larger populace. Most importantly, I also explore into the processes ENGOs use in negotiating with the state and expanding the restraints on freedom in order to gain more autonomous space for further development. In addition, using critical discourse analysis of online discussion forums, I examine the formation of a green public sphere as well as the exclusions to this public sphere which emerged during one environmental event. This research contributes to our understanding of civil society in this particular sociopolitical landscape and provides us with new angles for further civil society studies in non-Western contexts.

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