Why Was The Sunflower Movement Thought Of As A Student Movement?

Why Was The Sunflower Movement Thought Of As A Student Movement?

The Sunflower Movement did not only consist of students, but it is often thought of as a student movement

The Sunflower movement remains thought of as a “student movement” (學運) because of the relative youth of the majority of its participants. It is certainly true that the many of the participants were participants, particularly the prominent leaders of the movement, were students. Nevertheless, an overview of the movement clearly demonstrates that the Sunflower Movement was not only a student movement.

This was the case with the Sunflower Movement, in which the donations came rapidly in form society, including contributions of food, water, and other supplies, money, and the technical expertise needed to organize an occupation encampment and keep it running. If the movement had only been a student movement, comprised of students and students only, this would have been impossible. As is oftentimes the case with student movements, the movement would not be able to develop to the extent that it did without support from society writ large, in the sense that support, financial or otherwise, is needed from older individuals who have entered the workforce. Likewise, in consideration of the major actors of the movement, one observes that a major component of them were not students. The movement, for example, saw speeches by numerous professors and teachers, and received pro bono legal support from many lawyers. Many times the question was pondered on within the movement why the Sunflower Movement came to be thought of as a “student movement” and not a broader “social movement.” It may be that the students came to stand in for a broader cross-section of society, as is a common feature of social movements in democratizing countries.

But with social movements, at other times, the line between participant and observer is sometimes hard to draw. Visitors to the occupation encampment around the Legislative Yuan may not have directly participated in the movement, or may have simply been curious about the encampment, so should we count them as “participants” nonetheless? There are also cases of individuals, even individuals who became significant social movement leaders later on, who only meant to visit the Legislative Yuan occupation out of curiosity but became pulled into organizing. And so perhaps some expansion is needed regarding definitions of what “participation” in the Sunflower Movement meant. 


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Photo credit: Brian Hioe