Between Emotion, Politics and Law : Narrative Transformation and Authoritarian Deliberation in a Land Dispute-triggered Social Drama in China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-121
Number of pages28
Journal / PublicationChina Quarterly
Online published18 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


Through studying a revenge murder triggered by a land dispute in China and the subsequent trial, this article explores “narrative transformation” in a social drama and proposes an event-based model for authoritarian deliberation. It argues that an obscure murder rose to prominence because it came to be narrated as a different kind of story. Initially viewed as “a normal killing,” it was transformed to represent a “contest” between a law-and-order frame, which emphasizes individual guilt, and a righteous-revenge frame, which symbolizes wider conflicts. The article also contends that in the absence of an institutionalized issue forum, contentious events present a model for authoritarian deliberation. That is to say, deliberation is often pegged to social dramas on the “judicial periphery,” thanks to a liminal phase inviting reflexivity, and exposes elite dissent that is otherwise veiled by an interest-driven alliance. In this case study, the media engaged with other institutions in contentious performances that affirmed hidden social fault-lines but also encouraged deliberation.
本文聚焦一樁因征地糾紛引發的仇殺案 (賈敬龍案) 極具爭議的審理過程及引發的輿論風波。通過研究媒體、法院與法學界在這個過程中的互動,文章討論 “仇殺” 類型的社會戲劇中 “敘事轉化” 的現象,探究當代中國抗爭話語對於 “復仇者” 這一原型的借用及該原型與主流 “法律與秩序” 話語的衝突與調和,同時提出一個以事件為依託的威權語境下的協商模型。本來默默無聞的兇殺案之所以引起廣泛關注,是由於它在公共輿論場中完成了一次敘事轉型:從強調個體罪與罰的 “儀式化敘事” 轉化為一種 “競爭性敘事” ,而後者在 “法律與秩序” 框架與突出社會不公的 “正義復仇” 框架之間展開。通過剖析焦點案件中敘事與結構性力量的關係,以及情、理、法三者之間的聯繫,本文認為在建制化的協商場域缺失的威權社會,爭議性司法事件為協商提供了一種可能。通常,在多元民主社會,協商的主要載體為議題主導的民主建制 (如立法機構);然而在威權社會,協商更易於發生在界定秩序與失範的社會戲劇中,也與以個案為主導的司法部門關係更為密切。社會戲劇獨特的閾限區間激發了公眾對於 “現實” 和 “理想的道德/法律秩序” 之間差距的反思,也放大了平時被利益聯盟遮蔽的精英間的分歧。在對爭議性案件的報導中,媒體與其他建制互動,而這種衝突性展演既放大了日常狀態下被隱藏的社會矛盾,也將協商推向縱深。

Research Area(s)

  • authoritarian deliberation, China, land disputes, law and politics, narrative transformation, social drama