Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Gender and Women's Studies

Second Department

Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

Susan Castagnetto

Reader 2

Elizabeth Crighton

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2012 Shengwei Sun


Conventional wisdom holds that civil society building always strengthens democracy, and that civil society gains by undermining the state. Many studies have taken the case of democratic countries, such as the United States and India. However, the emerging civil society within authoritarian China raises an interesting question to the neoclassical hypothesis. Does civil society building necessarily leads to democracy? How do we evaluate the work of local civic groups and why does that matter? This thesis seeks answer through a case study of women’s organizing around the issue of domestic violence in China, exploring to what extent the growth of women’s organizing challenges or strengthens the hegemony of state, and in what ways transnational feminism facilitates the development of feminist activism in China. The case study finds a positive correlation between the increasing women’s organizing around the issue of domestic violence and the level of state intervention. Through closely examining the work of local women’s groups in China, it identifies the structural barriers and the state regulations limiting women’s organizing, but it also explores mobilizing strategies by women’s groups and the changes they have made despite the authoritarian setting. Ultimately, this thesis attempts to argue that civil society building is a political process structurally depended on the political economy of the state, and that the state also plays a significant role in “producing” certain kind of civil society. A situated analysis suggests that local groups adopt certain political strategies and prioritize certain issues over others under political, economic, and social constraints of their living environment, meaning that the strategies and focuses of civil society groups under the authoritarian setting in China will be different from the groups in the developed, democratic countries. Meanwhile, transnational feminism provides women activists with alternative discourses on gender issues and alternative sites for mobilization.


This thesis has been restricted to the IP range of the Claremont Colleges on April 3, 2013 with permission from the Scripps College Dean of Faculty..

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.