NORTH KOREAN STUDIES AND TOTALITARIANISM

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Chapter 3: Methodology and Research Design

The review and critique of the literature, combined with the researcher’s own experience and insights, has contributed to developing a framework for the design and conduct of this study. The framework developed shapes the research process, informing the methodological design and influencing the data-collection instruments to be used. The framework also becomes the repository for the data collected, providing the basis for and informing various iterations of a coding scheme. As such, this framework provides an organising structure both for reporting this study’s findings and for the analysis, interpretation and synthesis of the findings. The design is articulated through the following components: (1) specification of the research problem and objective; (2) research strategy; case selection; (4) establishing causality; (5) research sample and data collection; (6) data analysis and synthesis; (7) ethical considerations; (8) issues of quality; (9) trade-offs and limitations; and (10) summary and reporting the findings.

Specification of the Research Issue and Objective

The issue addressed by this research is the dearth of scholarship and public knowledge around everyday acts of resistance in North Korea. This study seeks an account of the phenomenon and its qualitative variation. The study aims for thick description through an analysis of observed patterns from a multi-source research sample, and diverse explanations are canvased to explain the emergence of discrete types of everyday resistance. George and Bennett (2005) posit a fully developed typological theory as one that accomplishes the following:
Specifies independent variables, delineates them into the categories for which the researcher will measure the cases and their outcomes, and provides not only hypotheses on how these variables will operate individually, but also contingent generalisations on how and under what conditions they behave in specified conjunctions or configurations to produce effects on specified dependent variables (p. 235).
Ideally, types are mutually exclusive and exhaustive; that is, each case of everyday resistance fits into a type, and only one type, where types are designed to minimise within-type variation and maximise variation across types (George & Bennett, 2005). However, this is seldom the case in reality, and as this study draws from very limited existing literature, no single empirical or exhaustive answer is sought. Instead, the present study is based on the premise that, regardless of the findings, the development of theory will provide a foundational ‘building block’ for further research. Through making a complex phenomenon more manageable by dividing it into ‘variants’, typological theories suggest causal relationships among contextual, structural and strategic factors to predict variance in an outcome (everyday resistance in the present study) of interest, therefore useful for strategic management. As Fiss (2011) suggests, they act as social scientific shorthand inviting their use for researchers and practitioners alike.

Research Strategy

Using a qualitative approach, this research strategy pursues typological theory through case study methodology to identify and distinguish key features of the research focus. According to Bloomberg and Volpe (2012):
Qualitative research is essentially grounded in a constructivist philosophical position in the sense that it is concerned with how the complexities of the sociocultural world are experienced, interpreted and understood in a particular context at a particular point in time. The intent of qualitative research is to examine a social situation or interaction by allowing the researcher to enter the world of others and attempt to achieve a holistic rather than a reductionist understanding. Qualitative methodology implies an emphasis on discovery and description, and the objectives are general focused on extracting and interpreting the meaning of experience (p. 118).
A qualitative case study approach fits with the research objectives. A case study is an intensive description and analysis of a phenomenon, social unit or system bounded by time or place (Bloomberg & Volpe 2012). As Merriam (1998) notes:
A case study design is employed to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved. The interest is in process rather than outcomes, in context rather than a specific variable, in discovery rather than confirmation. Insights gleaned from case studies can directly influence policy, practice, and future research (p. 19).
The present design adopted a within-country approach to the observation of social behaviour in North Korea based on a multi-source research sample. The data were analysed for patterns of everyday acts of resistance and coded thematically.26 Cases were selected based on thematic categories containing discrete subclasses of events denoting everyday resistance. Within- and cross-case comparison was used to construct rich, descriptive analytical narratives and identify strong, consistent patterns. Explanations were sought about the relationships among selected independent variables – for example political opportunity, value-orientation, and emotion – and the impact, or lack thereof, on everyday resistance in North Korea.
The conceptualisation and measurement of the dependent and independent variables was informed by the literature reviewed in the preceding chapter, to address the primary research question of “What accounts for everyday resistance in North Korea?”, together with two sub-questions asking, “How is everyday resistance exercised in North Korea?” and “When and why do particular types of everyday resistance emerge in North Korea?”. To address the first sub-question, the dependent variable of everyday resistance was operationalised. To answer the second sub-question, the independent variables acting as possible explanations were operationalised.

Conceptualising and Measuring the Dependent Variable

The dependent variable (outcome) of interest in this study is everyday resistance. The following fundamental criteria must be met for a unit of observation (act or behaviour) to be classified as ‘everyday resistance’:
It is done in a regular way, potentially politically intended but typically habitual or semi-conscious; it is a practice (not a certain consciousness, intent or outcome, yet intent may aid in a better understanding of the type if evident) carried out in a non-dramatic, non-confrontational or non-recognised way, that undermines or has the potential to undermine some power relation, without revealing itself (concealing or disguising either the actor or act), or by being defined by hegemonic discourse as ‘non-political’ or otherwise irrelevant to resistance; it is done by individuals or small groups without formal leadership or organisation, but typically encouraged by some subcultural attitude or ‘hidden transcript’; it is historically entangled with everyday power and understood as intersectional with the powers that it engages; it is heterogeneous and contingent due to changing contexts and situations (not a universal strategy or coherent form of action) (Vinthagen & Johansson, 2013).

Conceptualising and Measuring the Independent Variables

The independent variables were distilled from social movement theory. Absent the capacity to engage in collective action outside the state’s direction, causal variables reflect individual agency. These variables all likely affect the emergence of everyday resistance, but are not the total population of potential factors.

Structural Variables

“Resource mobilisation” as an explanatory variable focuses on the availability of resources and the process in which one or more people gain significant control over resources they previously did not control (Sadowski, 1988). The five-part typology developed by McCarthy and Edwards (2004) is used as an indicator of observable resources: moral (e.g., legitimacy, solidarity support, sympathetic support, celebrity); cultural (e.g., tactical repertoires, organisational templates, technical/strategic know-how); socio-organisational (e.g., infrastructures, social networks, organisations); human (e.g., labour, experience, skills, expertise); and material (e.g., monetary, property, meeting space, equipment, supplies). This typology provides some flexibility, even in rigidly structured systems, in the way in which resources can be used or reallocated when conceptualising movement possibilities.
‘Political opportunity’ as an explanatory variable denotes a dimension of a political system that is most indicative of the context of political opportunity and can thus function to signal something about its receptivity to challenge. State structures create stable opportunities, whereas changing opportunities within states provide the openings that resource-poor people can use to act (Tarrow, 2011). Changes in levels of political, social and economic pluralism will indicate ‘state strength’ and ‘regime repressiveness’.

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Ideational Variables

‘Value orientation’ is related to the value-oriented tradition of inquiry in social movement studies. The indicators for value-oriented explanations are as follows:
The valuation of incentives according to one’s identity; that is, identity affects the way one understands the world, and therefore the material and social incentives for a particular action will take on different values according to one’s identity. Thus, action still flows from material or social incentives, but identity effects the valuation of incentives.
Belligerence and conflict with the ‘other’ – the central causal process in behaviour deriving from in-group and out-group differentiation. Action is conditioned by a reaction to those who are different, (e.g. we are peace loving, you are not)—“anything goes in dealing with your disposition that threatens us”.
The role and logic of appropriateness action is driven by rules of appropriate or exemplary behaviour organised into institutions. The central causal process in behaviour is the performance of roles that are more or less consistent with role expectations flowing from the actor’s identity—the logic of appropriateness is the decision to perform a role and not in a decision to choose between optimising paths to some preferred outcome (Abdelal, Herrera, Johnston & Martin, 2001, p. 8; March & Olsen, 1995, pp. 30-31).
‘Framing tasks and processes’ will focus on the individual-level effects of frames on subsequent behaviour or attitudes. The three framing tasks are diagnostic (the identification of a problem and assignment of blame), prognostic (the suggestion of solutions, strategies and tactics to a problem) and motivational (a call to arms or rationale for action). These processes may be discursive, strategic or contested. The resonance of these in producing action occurs through four types of frame alignment: frame bridging (linking of two or more ideologically congruent but structurally unconnected frames regarding a particular problem or issue), frame amplification (clarification and invigoration of an interpretive frame that bears on a particular issue, problem, or set of events), frame extension (extending the boundaries of a frame to include or encompass the views, interests or sentiments of targeted individuals or groups) and frame transformation (attempt to alter the status of people or change of world-views, conversions of thought or uprooting of everything familiar). In addition, these framing processes may be identified through the way individuals evoke one frame or set of meanings rather than another to communicate a message, thereby indicating how the message is to be understood.
A central variable in the social psychology school of the ideational paradigm is ‘emotion’, representing psychic structures that constrain and enable action by channelling flows and investments of energy. These include urges (urgent bodily needs that crowd out other feelings and attention until they are satisfied: lust, hunger, substance additions, exhaustion or pain), reflex emotions (fairly quick, automatic responses to events and information, often taken as the paradigm for all emotions: anger, fear, joy, surprise, shock and disgust), moods (energising or de-energising feelings that persist across settings and do not normally take direct objects; they can be changed by reflex emotions, as during interactions), affective commitments (relatively stable feelings, positive or negative, about others or about objects, such as love and hate, liking and disliking, trust or mistrust, respect or contempt), and moral emotions (including of one’s own self and actions, based on moral intuitions or principle, such as shame, guilt, pride, indignation, outrage and compassion) (Jasper, 2014).

Case Selection

The primary criterion for case selection was related to the research objective of developing typological theory. As the primary units of analysis were instances of social behaviour that acquired the measures of everyday resistance as outlined in the preceding section, the selection of cases was based on a diverse sample of the behaviour as conducted by individuals. Selecting the cases with some preliminary knowledge allowed for a stronger research design as the researcher gradually reduced the range of social behaviour to satisfy the study’s operational measures.
The next task was to deduce from this assortment three cases based on the following criteria: (1) variation of the dependent variable in that a range of everyday resistance is selected to capture the broadest range of qualitative disparities, for example, a case likely to be highly conducive to structural effects (reflexive), one likely to be highly conducive to ideational effects (discursive), and one likely to be somewhere in between (biopolitical), to counteract as far as possible the selection bias problems associated with choosing cases based on the dependent variable. Moreover, while aiming for diversity across the spectrum of cases, the class of phenomena within the cases (e.g., gossip, rumour and oral culture within the case of discursive resistance) required a high degree of internal homogeneity, as to not affect tests of causality relating to the overall case; (2) ease of measurement, in that there is enough data to observe patterns within the case; and (3) fit of these variants of everyday resistance with the spatio-temporal context, that is, within the physical borders of the North Korean state from 2003 at the earliest. However, causal variables underpinning the resistance may stem from outside these parameters.
Based on the selection procedures, no broad qualitative type of everyday resistance was omitted among the total population and cases of ‘reflexive’, ‘discursive’, and ‘biopolitical’ everyday resistance were justified as warranting further exploration. Thus, a tripartite classification of cases of everyday resistance acted as the study’s hypothesis of categories spanning the diversity of the phenomena in North Korea.
Everyday reflexive resistance: Qualitatively similar to Scott’s (1990) variation of everyday resistance that undermines the state’s material domination in terms of its capacity to control the appropriation of human and physical resources. It eludes spatial and temporal control over one’s movement and labour, in a socio-economic context. Coined ‘reflexive’, it suggests individual decision-making instrumentally oriented toward material incentives outside the scope of those offered by the state and restricted by its spatial and temporal controls. The researcher hypothesised it as a most likely caused by structural variables.
Everyday discursive resistance: Qualitatively similar to Scott’s (1990s) variation of everyday resistance grounded in the notion of hidden transcripts that lie in linguistic and symbolic acts of individuals. Laced with anti-regime semantics, this variety is coined ‘discursive’. It suggests a mixture of spontaneous, but likely careful, and intentional linguistic and symbolic practices outside the hierarchal state discourses that present a dissenting message. The researcher hypothesised it as mostly likely cause by ideational variables.
Everyday biopolitical resistance: While reflective of Scott’s (1990) variation of everyday resistance to ideological domination, it derives primarily from Foucault’s genealogy of power and its evolution into a biopolitics that deals with the population as a political problem, as a problem both scientific and political. In this constant warlike struggle between the ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ elements of the population, North Korean biopolitics diagnoses enemies of the state as the criminal and political adversaries who deviate from the immanence of ideology in everyday life, thus threatening the rest of the population. According to Foucault (2003), “This is not, then, a military, warlike or political relationship, but a biological relationship. And the reason this mechanism can come into play is that the enemies who have to be done away with are not adversaries in the political sense of the term; they are threats, either external or internal, to the population and for the population” (pp. 255-256). Encompassing a social reality more typical of everyday life in North Korea than blatant subculture, this pattern is indicative of an everyday resistance that undermines the regime’s politicisation of life and idea. Coined ‘biopolitical’, its qualitative expression is demonstrative of those acts spanning self-affirmative and self-detrimental realms from alternative sartorial trends to suicide (the regime frames suicide as politically traitorous). The research hypothesised it to be caused rather consistently by a mixed bag of structural and ideational variables.
Hence, the central argument of this study is built around a selective but diverse range of social behaviour that was hypothesised to account for a tripartite classification of everyday resistance in North Korea. It is supported by rich descriptions drawn from analyses of observed patterns in the data and supplemented by a process-tracing method that pursues causal links between structural and ideational conditions and the three cases of everyday resistance respectively.

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Establishing Causal Links

Here, it is important to contrast typologies and typological theories. Typologies characterise variants of a phenomenon, as opposed to typological theory that seeks to identify causal mechanisms and pathways that link the dependent variable (in this case, of each type) in typology to a typological theory (George & Bennett, 2005). Hence, to progress from a typology to a typological theory, the multidimensional variable of everyday resistance was situated in a theoretical framework comprising the independent variables that act as probable causal factors contributing to the emergence of the three variations of resistance. Likely all ‘necessary’ but not independently ‘sufficient’, these explanatory variables made intuitive sense in that they would all matter to some degree. However, some were expected to be more consistent and reliable in their effects across cases.
Combining within-case and cross-case analysis through process-tracing helps one understand not only why but how certain outcomes occurred. In situations where more than one explanation seems to fit correlative patterns and researchers are unable to ascertain which is most important, process-tracing offers an additional means of eliminating and scoring the relevance of variables, leaving scholars with a more parsimonious answer. Significant and well suited for this dissertation, causal process observations provide ‘thick’ detailed descriptions of the specific cases under investigation, having the additional benefit of enabling researchers to push forward with new questions in light of richer information, elevating the potential for new theory development.
Hence, to establish causal links between the variables, the theoretical framework illustrated below reflects what George and Bennett (2005) refer to as a straightforward method of structured, focused comparison. This framework guided the second component of each empirical chapter in pursuit of testing each of the five variables in a consistent manner by referring to a set of standardised questions reflective of the research objective and theoretical focus of the inquiry, enhancing the acquisition of comparable data from cross-case comparisons. This allows for the avoidance of the pitfall that, even in intensive single case studies, when such cases were instances of a class of events, they are were not performed in a comparable manner and therefore did not contribute to an orderly, cumulative knowledge and theory about the phenomenon in question.

Structural Variables

“The availability of a variety of resources to actors with the primitive capability of mobilising them affecting everyday resistance” (resource mobilisation theory);
To what extent does a variety of resources (moral, cultural, socio-organisational, human, material) with at least a primitive capacity to mobilise them affect this variety of everyday resistance?
“The exogenous conditions such as ‘state strength’ and ‘regime repressiveness’ that at a particular time facilitate favourable conditions for everyday resistance” (political opportunity theory);
To what extent do opportunity structures (‘state strength’, ‘regime repressiveness’) account for the emergence of this variation of everyday resistance?

Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 
1.1 BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT
1.2 PROBLEM STATEMENT
1.3 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 RESEARCH APPROACH
1.6 DELIMITATIONS
1.7 STRUCTURE OF THE DISSERTATION
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 
2.1 RESISTANCE STUDIES
2.2. NORTH KOREAN STUDIES AND TOTALITARIANISM
2.3. SOCIAL MOVEMENT LITERATURE
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY AND RESEARCH DESIGN 
3.1 SPECIFICATION OF THE RESEARCH ISSUE AND OBJECTIVE
3.2 RESEARCH STRATEGY
3.3 CASE SELECTION
3.4 ESTABLISHING CAUSAL LINKS
3.5 RESEARCH SAMPLE AND DATA COLLECTION METHODS
3.6 DATA ANALYSIS AND SYNTHESIS METHODS
3.7 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
3.8 ISSUES OF QUALITY
3.9 TRADE-OFFS AND LIMITATIONS
3.10 SUMMARY AND REPORTING THE FINDINGS
CHAPTER 4: REFLEXIVE RESISTANCE 
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 THE REFLEXIVE VARIETY OF RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
4.3 EXPLANATIONS 1
4.4 CONCLUSION: A THEORY ON REFLEXIVE RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
CHAPTER 5: DISCURSIVE RESISTANCE 
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE DISCURSIVE VARIETY OF RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
5.3 EXPLANATIONS
5.4 CONCLUSION: A THEORY ON DISCURSIVE RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
CHAPTER 6: BIOPOLITICAL RESISTANCE 
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 THE BIOPOLITICAL VARIETY OF RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
6.3 EXPLANATIONS
6.4 CONCLUSION: A THEORY ON BIOPOLITICAL RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSION 
7.1 THE PUZZLE OF EVERYDAY RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
7.2 SUMMARY AND SYNTHESIS OF THE FINDINGS
7.2.3 TYPOLOGICAL THEORY ON EVERYDAY RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA
7.3 IMPLICATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
7.4 RECOMMENDATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHY
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VARIETIES OF EVERYDAY RESISTANCE IN NORTH KOREA

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