JIANGANG ZHU, while a student at Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, P.R. China, was awarded a grant in August 2001 to aid research on 'Shanghai Lilong Nieghborhood: An Ethnography of Civil Associations and Social Movements,' supervised by Dr. Joseph Bosco. This research explored the civil associations and community movements in a lilong neighborhood in Shanghai since the 1980s. The central question was how these civil associations and social movements interact with neighborhood residents and with the local government in Shanghai. In order to answer this question, a neighborhood named Pingming Village was selected for ethnographic fieldwork.
Data was collected by doing volunteer work for the neighborhood committee, by participating in several community movements against the local government or real estate developers, and by becoming involved in several voluntary organizations. In one case, residents protested against a skyscraper that would hide the sunlight from older buildings. Residents protested to the developer, complained to the local government, and organized themselves to defend their rights. Though the study of protest movements in China is a sensitive issue, community issues at the local level are not seen as political but as 'social' problems. Long-term residence in the community permitted research on these movements, and leaders were glad to provide materials and to be interviewed to publicize their struggle. The research showed how state power penetrated into neighborhood life and how resistance in the community was intertwined with this state penetration. Some of the movements successfully fought state bureaus, but only by depoliticizing their actions and allying themselves with other state bureaus. Because of the limits imposed by state hegemony, these associations and collective actions cannot build an independent civil society. However, they weave relations of trust, create networks of engagement, and improve the norm of reciprocity. When democratization is on the agenda these civil associations and movements may provide the social capital for this transformation.