Attraction Without Networks: Recruiting Strangers to Unregistered Protestantism in China
Mobilization, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 79-94, March 2007
16 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2008
Research on social movements points to the role of networks in recruiting intimates and public spaces in recruiting strangers. But for Chinese Protestants, creative outreach strategies can substitute for previously existing relationships and initiate recruitment even when public proselytizing is forbidden, religion is rarely mentioned in the media, and direct contact with potential converts is discouraged. To attract strangers, evangelists in China rely on door-to-door proselytizing in the countryside, cultural performances embedded with religious messages in the cities, and one-on-one conversations when the opportunity arises. By contacting targets in the ordinary flow of life and fashioning appeals using resonant language, Protestant recruiters have become adept at attracting non-networked individuals in safe-enough spaces that appear in the creases of a reforming Leninist regime. More generally, the analysis suggests that networks sometimes play a smaller role in recruitment than is commonly thought, at least at first, and that social bonds may be as much a result of recruitment as a precondition for it.
Keywords: China, religion, recruitment, social movements
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