Breaking down the barriers and developing a new mode of citizenship: A sociological analysis of internet use by disabled people in China

Qu, Yuanyuan (2017) Breaking down the barriers and developing a new mode of citizenship: A sociological analysis of internet use by disabled people in China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines how the internet is used by disabled people in China and focusses in particular on whether internet use can improve their lives and by extension advance China towards a more inclusive civil society. Framing this work are three key overriding issues. First is the rapidly changing and evolving Chinese society and economy, as the country moves from a highly centralised regime to ‘socialism with Chinese characters’. Second is the near absence of disability and disabled people from this process and third is the expanding
internet use by Chinese people.
There has been very little research on either disability or disabled people in post-reform China and one of the aims of this thesis was to start to explore and fill the gap. The study attempts to find a contextualised and practical pathway to research disability in China. There are two key elements to the research. First is a broad overview of the use of the internet and the emergence of disability digital communities, using quantitative data from a content analysis of two popular disability forums in China’s cyberspace. This was followed by a series of in-depth interviews with 34 disabled people from across China. The data presented in this qualitative element of the thesis explores the intersection between internet use and economic participation, political engagement and cultural representation of disabled people and disability. The core issues that emerged from the analysis include a discussion on: 1) The internet as a tool for empowerment; 2) The internet as a mechanism for inclusion; 3) The internet as not only a tool but also a sphere; 4) The possibility of establishing a ‘netizenship’, to help access to, improve, or replace the un-developed citizenship in China. Overall, the study concludes that whilst internet use has significantly improved the lives of
disabled people, it cannot change their disadvantaged position or promote the
social justice of the reforming, digital China.
Throughout the research there were concerns on the tensions between western-dominated literature and the specialties of the Chinese context. The thesis critically engages with western theories and methodologies to develop its own specific, contextualised framework. This framework takes account of the multiple dimensions of the disabled experience, the agency of disabled people, and social changes in the context of China’s reform. Only through this, the thesis argues, can disability in China be fully and properly explored.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Funded by China Scholarship Council (No.201306770011)
Keywords: Disability in China, internet use, empowerment, inclusion, netizenship.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Funder's Name: China Scholarship Council
Supervisor's Name: Watson, Professor Nicholas and Ferrie, Dr. Joanna
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: Yuanyuan Qu
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-8575
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2017 16:20
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2024 15:05

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