[REVISED] CALL FOR PAPERS | Forging Theoretical Agendas in the Study of Chinese Voluntary Associations

Minghua Tay's picture
Call for Papers
September 15, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Asian History / Studies, Chinese History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Southeast Asian History / Studies

DATE OF EVENT : 5-7 January 2022
VENUE : Online via Zoom
WEBSITE : https://ari.nus.edu.sg/events/chinese-voluntary-associations/


Chinese voluntary associations (CVAS) generally refer to “those associations that originate out of the migrant communities and are controlled by them, hence not official and non-governmental, even though many of these might have worked in collaboration with the… government” (Kuah-Pearce and Hu-dehart, 2006). They include:

  • Huiguan (会馆): organized along clan (surname), lineage, hometown or dialect lines
  • Shetuan (社团): a modern form of huiguan organized based on dialect and hometown affiliations, including Chinese chamber of commerce
  • Kongsi (公司), Tang (堂) & Hui (会): some of them may have historical background as triads or secret societies
  • Temples (庙宇) and religious affiliations established and operated by clan, lineage, hometown or dialect groups
  • Others, such as schools, trade unions, industrial guilds, charitable associations or recreational clubs etc.

Different kinds of CVAS were developed along with the spatial mobilities of migrants with the same place of origin, dialect, lineage, surname or religion who lived, worked and studied away from ancestral places. They often formed essential components of the social fabric of migrant communities. Many of these associations were originally developed during the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1636-1912) dynasties, and spread through the Chinese diaspora to many parts of the world. Members in different associations were bound together through common welfare or economic interests. Arguably, CVAS have undergone tremendous transformations in this day and age, but they still play important roles in the social life of Chinese migrants in and outside China.

How do the modern developments of Chinese voluntary associations diverge from its traditional roles and how do they embark on new strategies, linkages and possibilities? How does the ‘re/de-sinification’ paradigm respond to the re-anchoring and remaking of Chinese voluntary associations in the contemporary period? How do we understand the religious dimensions of Chinese voluntary associations that often appear ambiguous and glossed over in the modernization and secularization discourse? Are there gender and age dynamics in the organizations of Chinese voluntary associations that remain largely unexplored, and do these associations still maintain a “male- and elder-centered” profile? By approaching these questions and many others, this conference invites scholars to leverage their respective disciplinary and empirical expertise to forge theoretical agendas in the study of CVAS. This is a response to existing scholarship which lacks an engagement with conceptual issues or theoretical reflections and leaves the theoretical significance of CVAS studies underdeveloped.

We are open to papers which cover but are not limited to the following theoretical agendas:

  • CVAS and concepts of transnationalism, translocality, mobility and hybridity
  • CVAS and community (re)making
  • CVAS and religious networks
  • CVAS and gender, age dynamics
  • CVAS and implications for the theorization of identity reconstruction and politics
  • CVAS and cultural governance
  • CVAS and diaspora studies
  • CVAS and geopolitics, international relations (IRS)
  • CVAS and citizenship
  • CVAs and diplomacy


Submissions should include a title, an abstract (250 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words. As the organizers plan to publish journal special issue(s) with selected papers presented in this conference, please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. By participating in the conference, you agree to be involved in the future publication plans of the organizers. If you have questions about the thematic focus, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Ying Ruo Show (arisyr@nus.edu.sg) and Dr Ningning Chen (aricn@nus.edu.sg).

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms Tay Minghua at minghua.tay@nus.edu.sg by 15 September 2021. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by mid October 2021. Participants will be required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000-8,000 words) by 1 December 2021.


Dr Ningning CHEN
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Dr Ying Ruo SHOW
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Prof Kenneth DEAN
Asia Research Institute, and Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore

Contact Info: 

Ms Minghua TAY
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
AS8 Level 7, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
Email: minghua.tay@nus.edu.sg
Tel: (65) 6516 4224
Fax: (65) 6779 1428

URL: https://ari.nus.edu.sg/upcoming-events/