Main content start

The Affective Spatialization of Urban Politics: Social Movements, Urban Development/Environment, and Post-Handover Hong Kong

Shan Huang
Thu June 13th 2024, 4:00 - 5:00pm
Building 50, 52H

The shocking, hyper-mediatized street protests in Hong Kong since 1997 have puzzled many: What makes Hong Kong a “city of protest”? Instead of treating the city as a “container” of social movements or a symbol of political-cultural identities, I aim to demonstrate that Hong Kong’s space-making politics and urban environments are integral to what is sometimes conveniently summarized as “pro-democracy” or “anti-authoritarian” activism. Political demands and actions found in the latter, I suggest that, should be examined in tandem with urban questions such as how the city should be built, for whom, and what kinds of life can be afforded. While attending to some eventful protests, I privilege urban movements—social movements and experimental projects related to urban development/environment—as the primary object of inquiry. More specifically, I focus on a multi-sited and loosely organized progressive activist network, namely land activism, which intervenes in Hong Kong’s urban and political predicaments by altering hegemonic conceptions and uses of land, as well as enunciating new affective attachments to the city. A range of cases—from campaigns to democratize urban planning to citizen research of land reserves, from preserving iconic urban architectures to revitalizing agricultural communities in rural villages—are examined. I argue that the vibrancy of Hong Kong political culture in the post-Handover era can be better explained by looking at how familiar political demands and new, critical ways of experiencing, knowing, and commoning the city map onto while mutually expand each other. I term this process the affective spatialization of (urban) politics. In providing a rare, full-length ethnography of an enduring and widely recognized social movement, I also try to expand the theoretical potentials of Hong Kong. In the political laboratory of “One Country, Two Systems,” which is spatialized in and by an ultra-capitalist mode of urbanization proudly instrumentalized by the late socialist, globalizing China, how might we think differently about affective politics and the spatial-environmental formation of urbanism?

Zoom link

PW: 916539