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Conference Paper: 'Umtopia' - the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong as a Prefigurative Micro-Utopia

Title'Umtopia' - the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong as a Prefigurative Micro-Utopia
Authors
Issue Date2015
Citation
Towards an Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, 14 Nov., HKUST, Hong Kong How to Cite?
AbstractThe appreciation of the Umbrella occupy movement soon turned sour locally due to a predominantly sceptical and defeatist discourse about the lack any demonstrable “outcomes” or “successes.” Like the post-occupy sentiments elsewhere, people ask: “How much difference had it really made, in the end? Had this wave of revolts and protest really improved people’s lives? Had it lead to more equality, democracy, transparency or participation?” (van de Sande 2013, 224) Even proponents of radical democracy like Chantal Mouffe have ascribed these occupy movements’ “exodus” from engagement with traditional parliamentary politics as one of the reasons for their failure to “secure any substantial political change” or improvement of daily lives (Mouffe 2013; van de Sande 2015, 177-8). I will show that it is the cynical hypocrisy of the neoliberal mindset that allows the world to collectively celebrate a movement for its utopianism only to turn all of a sudden, to condemning this very same utopianism for being useless. Rather than understanding the significance of the movement through reductive neoliberal logic, which economizes politics and all other aspects of life into short-term stated goals and demonstrable outcomes (Brown 2015; van de Sande 2015), I want to contextualize and understand the Umbrella Movement on its own terms. What kind of cultural logic and cultural politics do we actually see in the Umbrella Movement? Firstly, I will contextualize the Umbrella Movement as Hong Kong people’s resistance to a dual set of biopolitics of control and governmentalities (Foucault 2004), the in-your-face biopolitics of mainlandization (China is called Mainland in local parlance) on the one hand, and the indiscernable biopolitics of neoliberalization on the other. Secondly, through the notions of “prefigurative politics” (van de Sande 2013, 2015; Baker 2016), “micro-utopia” or “acting as if one is already free” (Graeber 2009, 210, 257), and a Do-It-Together (DIT) culture that emphasizes prefigurative participatory democracy and the collective sense of community resistance and building, I want to offer an approach to understand the cultural significance of the Umbrella Movement on its own terms and avoid dismissing it too quickly. Finally, I attempt to understand why the movement multitude (Hardt and Negri 2004) end up doing prefigurative politics that operates on a temporal-spatial order that assumes the actualization of the virtual, which is diametrically opposed to the usual assumptions of Western postmodern theory.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/234383

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorSzeto, MM-
dc.date.accessioned2016-10-14T13:46:29Z-
dc.date.available2016-10-14T13:46:29Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationTowards an Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, 14 Nov., HKUST, Hong Kong-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/234383-
dc.description.abstractThe appreciation of the Umbrella occupy movement soon turned sour locally due to a predominantly sceptical and defeatist discourse about the lack any demonstrable “outcomes” or “successes.” Like the post-occupy sentiments elsewhere, people ask: “How much difference had it really made, in the end? Had this wave of revolts and protest really improved people’s lives? Had it lead to more equality, democracy, transparency or participation?” (van de Sande 2013, 224) Even proponents of radical democracy like Chantal Mouffe have ascribed these occupy movements’ “exodus” from engagement with traditional parliamentary politics as one of the reasons for their failure to “secure any substantial political change” or improvement of daily lives (Mouffe 2013; van de Sande 2015, 177-8). I will show that it is the cynical hypocrisy of the neoliberal mindset that allows the world to collectively celebrate a movement for its utopianism only to turn all of a sudden, to condemning this very same utopianism for being useless. Rather than understanding the significance of the movement through reductive neoliberal logic, which economizes politics and all other aspects of life into short-term stated goals and demonstrable outcomes (Brown 2015; van de Sande 2015), I want to contextualize and understand the Umbrella Movement on its own terms. What kind of cultural logic and cultural politics do we actually see in the Umbrella Movement? Firstly, I will contextualize the Umbrella Movement as Hong Kong people’s resistance to a dual set of biopolitics of control and governmentalities (Foucault 2004), the in-your-face biopolitics of mainlandization (China is called Mainland in local parlance) on the one hand, and the indiscernable biopolitics of neoliberalization on the other. Secondly, through the notions of “prefigurative politics” (van de Sande 2013, 2015; Baker 2016), “micro-utopia” or “acting as if one is already free” (Graeber 2009, 210, 257), and a Do-It-Together (DIT) culture that emphasizes prefigurative participatory democracy and the collective sense of community resistance and building, I want to offer an approach to understand the cultural significance of the Umbrella Movement on its own terms and avoid dismissing it too quickly. Finally, I attempt to understand why the movement multitude (Hardt and Negri 2004) end up doing prefigurative politics that operates on a temporal-spatial order that assumes the actualization of the virtual, which is diametrically opposed to the usual assumptions of Western postmodern theory.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.relation.ispartofTowards an Eventful Sociology of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, 14 Nov., HKUST, Hong Kong-
dc.title'Umtopia' - the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong as a Prefigurative Micro-Utopia-
dc.typeConference_Paper-
dc.identifier.emailSzeto, MM: mmszeto@hku.hk-
dc.identifier.authoritySzeto, MM=rp01180-
dc.identifier.hkuros268008-

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