Just published: “Creating a Textual Public space. Slogans and Texts from Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement,” Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 75.3 (Aug. 2016).
In this article, using textual material collected on site, I identify the central claim of the Umbrella Movement as an assertion of agency by a community with fluid borders. This community is performed through a variety of cultural repertoires, varying from traditional Chinese philosophy to contemporary pop music, but, most importantly, it is also enacted in the space of a deliberative forum.
Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement (Sept-Dec 2014) represented a watershed in Hong Kong’s political culture and self-understanding. Based on a study of over 1000 slogans and other textual and visual material documented during the movement, this study provides an overview of claims, which are oriented towards an assertion of agency, articulated at different levels: in a universalistic mode (“democracy”), in relation with a political community (Hong Kong autonomy and decolonization) and through concrete policy aims. At the same time, slogans mobilize a diversity of cultural and historical repertoires which attest the hybrid quality of Hong Kong identity and underscore the diversity of sources of political legitimacy. Finally, it will be argued that by establishing a system of contending discourses within the occupied public spaces, the movement strived to act out a type of discursive democracy. Despite the challenges that this discursive space encountered in interacting with the authorities and the public at large, it represented an unfinished attempt to build a new civic culture among Hong Kong’s younger generation.