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Creating a Textual Public Space: Slogans and Texts from Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement


Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement (September–December 2014) represented a watershed in Hong Kong's political culture and self-understanding. Based on over 1,000 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 diverse cultural and historical repertoires that 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.

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Craig Calhoun . 2013. “Occupy Wall Street in Perspective.” British Journal of Sociology 64(1):2638.

Nancy Fraser . 1995. “Politics, Culture, and the Public Sphere: Toward a Postmodern Conception.” In Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics, eds. Linda Nicholson and Steven Seidman , 287314. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sidney Tarrow . 2013. The Language of Contention: Revolutions in Words, 1688–2012. New York: Cambridge University Press.

E. P. Thompson 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past and Present 50:76136.

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The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
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