Resistance and Resilience: Coping With/Against the State


Southeast Asia offers a bewildering panoply of forms and outcomes of social resistance contra the state. At the same time, regimes across the region are variously disposed towards challenges made through "official" channels. The result is a spectrum of contained and transgressive, broad-based and narrowly waged, permitted and suppressed, and successful and failed protest. What determines how activists and advocates pitch their claims, and how does venue shape content? A comparative examination of spaces and forms of engagement in the region, building on the work of Garry Rodan and Kanishka Jayasuriya to develop a typology of regimes and modes of engagement, serves to address these questions. That framework allows deeper consideration of the dynamics behind demands, identities and strategic choices than studies of contentious politics and state–society relations usually accommodate. It makes possible exploration of how prevailing parameters determine which issues and identity categories gain traction, what resources and alliances are most germane, and where the balance between electoral and less institutional modes of engagement falls. Examples from a selection of cases from more and less democratic regimes in Maritime Southeast Asia allow us to probe these dynamics in greater depth. This probing in turn permits consideration of dimensions of framing and brokerage, of co-optation and contestation, and of the logic behind activists' strategic decisions of how best to take on a less than liberal state.