Poetics of the People: The politics of debating local identity in Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and its literature (2014–16)
This article scrutinizes the negotiations with, and discursive refashioning of, Hong Kong identity during and after the Umbrella Movement (2014–16). I argue that these discursive experimentations borne out of the Umbrella Movement bring to light Hong Kong's uniquely cultural formulations of democratic self-determination that exceed the traditional analytic framework of Hong Kong cultural studies. The article analyses literary works as a hitherto neglected facet of the ‘Umbrella culture’ that, as a whole, acts as a discursive laboratory for multiple reflexive theorizations of Hong Kong identity and democratic subjectivity to be devised and debated. Cases studied here include the protesters’ on-site cultural expressions and two major Hong Kong literary authors: Dung Kai-cheung and Wong Bik-wan. This article examines social-movements artworks and literary works in terms of their performative and ethnographic dimensions, arguing that they are important intellectual and cultural-political processes to produce new knowledge about collective identity. This article first demonstrates how the Umbrella artworks repurpose the performative and the ethnographic strategies in Saisai's canonical novel, My City (1975), often cited as the ur-text of Hong Kong identity, to proclaim themselves as ‘we the Hong Kong people’. After reading Dung's and Wong's Umbrella-related works, I then show in this article that the performative and the ethnographic can open up spaces to reconfigure collective identity beyond its existent discourses. Putting theories of performativity into dialogue with critical ethnography, I consider the politics of negotiating and debating cultural identity in literature and protest arts as integral to postcolonial democratic action.
1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2021
Journal title, volume/issue number, page range
Modern Asian Studies, 55(6), 1848-1882.
Art and Culture