[Webinar] Late Colonialism: “Hong Kong People” and the Popular Re-imagining of an Instituting Imaginary

[Updated 30 October 2021: For those who might have missed this webinar, here are the webcast and the photos.]

Friday, 29 October 2021, 12:00–13:30 PDT
Late Colonialism: “Hong Kong People” and the Popular Re-imagining of an Instituting Imaginary
Prof. Gregory Lee, University of St. Andrews
via Zoom

A City Reassembled event
Registration required

After the 1967 Riots, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, backed by the colonial government, organized a festival of variety shows, exhibitions, fashion parades, and a cavalcade. This initial effort was followed in 1969 by a more substantial “Festival of Hong Kong” 香港節, which sported the slogan “Hong Kong People use Hong Kong Goods.” The festivals were part of a government strategy to build a sense of unity among the inhabitants of the colony as well as to counteract the pro-PRC patriotic sentiment that had marked the riots. The strategy focussed on instituting a singular sense of “Hongkongness” by promoting the term “Hong Kong People” 香港人 over “Chinese people” 中國人. Over time, the “instituting imaginary,” as Castoriadis would put it, was  détourné  (recuperated, subverted, turned off course, transformed) by Hong Kong civil society and the local culture industry into a popular “instituted imaginary.” This moment may be defined as Late Colonialism (a hitherto unseen form of late twentieth-century colonialism conflated with a Jamesonian Late Capitalism), which promised the joys of consumerism and a path to democracy that never transpired. It was this half-realized Paradise that was taken over by the PRC in 1997, where the central authorities found themselves confronted by a community that over the succeeding twenty years would continue to express its uniqueness and, increasingly, its recalcitrance. In recent years, the local community has drawn on what we can term a Hong Kong Imaginarium both to express as well as shape its identity and to reject being absorbed into the patriotic mainland Imaginary. This talk will address the key terms and moments outlined above.

Gregory Lee is the Founding Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of St. Andrews. An academic, writer, and broadcaster, he has lived and worked in France, the USA, mainland China, and Hong Kong. In addition to modern Chinese cultural studies, he has written widely on the representation of Chineseness, the Chinese diaspora, the transcultural, and intellectual decolonization. His most recent book is  China Imagined: From European Fantasy to Spectacular Power (Hurst, 2018).

This webinar is organized by the UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative and co-sponsored by: Department of Asian Studies, Department of History, Centre for Chinese Research, Centre for Migration Studies, Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies, Public Humanities Hub, and the Interdisciplinary Histories Research Cluster.

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