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SOSC 005 May 4, 2005 Mirana M. Szeto Hong Kong Everyday Culture. A. Hong Kong – a city of protests?. 1856 The Second Opium War between China and Britain began. Anti-British workers general strikes erupted 3 times in Hong Kong between November 1856 and March 1858.

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sosc 005 may 4 2005 mirana m szeto hong kong everyday culture
SOSC 005

May 4, 2005

Mirana M. Szeto

Hong Kong Everyday Culture

a hong kong a city of protests
A. Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • 1856 The Second Opium War between China and Britain began. Anti-British workers general strikes erupted 3 times in Hong Kong between November 1856 and March 1858.
  • 1857 January, several hundred British people consumed poisoned bread by a Hong Kong Chinese bakery. No suspect was ever found. Awards were offered to those willing to assassinate British officials. Workers were on strike and shops closed in protest against the British.
hong kong a city of protests
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • The conditions of living for Chinese people in the British colony were appalling. The government never provided any health, housing, welfare and education.
  • In 1860, locals banded together to create a self-help charity organization to care for the poor and provide basic healthcare and social welfare - the Tung Wah Hospitals.
  • The success of this organization was considered threatening by the colonial government. It used the 1894 Bubonic plague in Hong Kong as an excuse to persecute the organization & undercut its leading role in the local Chinese community.
  • 1894 The Chinese community was outraged at the way the British colonial government handled the plague, protested en masse, causing a lot of stress in the city.
hong kong a city of protests4
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • 1905 In reaction to the series of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racist legislations in America, Hong Kong workers boycottedUS goods. Sun Yat-sen started the Hong Kong arm of the Xingzhonghui (興中會).
  • 1908 The first anti-Japanese demonstration in Hong Kong against Japanese imperial advances in Chinese along with other European powers.
  • 1911 The Chinese Revolution. Hong Kong people rejoiced and cut their pigtails en masse. There were also attacks on the British elite in the passion of some demonstrations. The British cracked down on the nationalist movement.
hong kong a city of protests5
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • 1917 Hong Kong people boycotted public transport.
  • 1919 The May Fourth Movement in China & HK.
  • 1920 The mechanic’s strike – got 20% to 30% pay increase.
  • Chinese migration to Hong Kong increased. Severe tension on housing and food supply. Prices inflated to levels intolerable to the poor working class. Workers’ movements towards unionization intensified in Hong Kong since around 1913. By 1922, there were around 100 unions in Hong Kong. In 1922, the seamen generated a strike for a 30-40% pay increase. A general strike was proposed. Food & transport industry workers, office workers & coolies joined. British forces opened fire on the strikers killing 6 & wounding several hundred. Succeeded in getting a 30% pay increase for the seamen.
hong kong a city of protests6
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • 1925-27 In support of Guangzhou & Shanghai, Hong Kong workers went on strike & frequent demonstrations. British forces opened fire on strikers killing 52, leading to a general strike included low level civil servants. At the peak, around 250,000 workers (30% of the population) left Hong Kong.
  • Demands: basket of workers rights in Hong Kong, a general 25% decrease in rent across board, & the right to organize, freedom of expression in the press, equality between Chinese and British people in front of the law, the right of Hong Kong people to live anywhere in the city, the right to vote and other political rights.
  • The British government refused the demands & outlawed strikes & unions.
hong kong a city of protests7
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
  • 1931-45 Frequent protests and guerrilla fights against the Japanese.
  • 1948 Terrible housing conditions caused squatters to protest. The colonial police opened fire on demonstrating squatters in the Kowloon Walled City, wounding over 10.
  • 1950s. During the 50s, the colonial regime closed down three media organizations, infringing on the people’s freedom of expression.
  • 1953. A terrible fire broke out in Hong Kong’s Shek Gip mei district. A social movement followed, which succeeded in pushing the Hong Kong government into building public housing for the poor.
why are hong kong people protesting all the time
Why are Hong Kong people protesting all the time?
  • The British colonial government, like any colonial government, aims at extracting the most they can from the colony. They would do the least for the colonized people if they can.
  • If not driven by crisis situations, the British colonial government would not bother about ordinary people’s frustrations and anger against the lack of social amenities and welfare, as well as the increasing everyday injustices & exploitation.
why are hong kong people protesting all the time9
Why are Hong Kong people protesting all the time?
  • Thus, every social welfare and just policy is the result of people’s persistent demand and organized protests.
  • Otherwise, only disasters like the Shek Kip Mei fire (1953) and outbreaks of epidemics that could threaten the safety of the elite, as well as the stability of law and order, could prompt the government to improve the situation.
  • Even so, Hong Kong people need to constantly put pressure on the government to make policies more effective, widely available, and reasonable.
why are hong kong people protesting all the time10
Why are Hong Kong people protesting all the time?
  • Ordinary people in Hong Kong used to be mainly dirt poor workers, new immigrants & their children.
  • Even today, there are 2.3 million people who live in public housing & cannot afford the basic cost of living in Hong Kong without housing subsidy.
  • 香港社会服务联会最近的报告指, HK贫富差距是世界第三大.According to the Gini Index, HK’s rich poor gap is the 5th worst in the world.香港是全世界生活消费指数第5贵 (东京, 伦敦, 莫斯科, 大阪, 香港. NY第12). 原因是, 衣食住行中, HK住很贵.
  • According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 2004地产价格比较,HK is 2nd most expensive in the world(Tokyo, HK, London , Singapore , NY).
  • 楚原 (导演),《七十二家房客》,香港,1973。Chu Yuan, dir., The House of 72 Tenants, Hong Kong, 1973.
b what can we learn from hong kong everyday culture
B. What can we learn from Hong Kong everyday culture?

The general concerns, attitudes & active agency of those Hong Kong people who are often misunderstood, silenced & ignored by dominant assumptions.

Learn about the ways grassroot (草根) and ordinary Hong Kong people escape control, fight exploitation, and put together creatively what they need and want.

why do we need ways to study everyday life
Why do we need ways to study Everyday Life?
  • To find ways to bring out the survival tactics & agencies of the dominated in face of the discipline & exploitation exercised by the dominant social formations & institutions.
  • To discover the relation between socio-economic injustice suffered by marginalized people and the socio-economic conditions that perpetuate them.
  • To counter the passive & -ve picture the dominant system paint of the marginalized people in order to help produce the arguments & analysis from the position of the underprivileged.
michel de certeau s purpose in writing the practice of everyday life
Michel de Certeau’s purpose in writing The Practice of Everyday Life
  • To bring to light the concealed models of action characteristic of those who are the dominated in society. Allow the unarticulated tactics to be taken seriously.
  • Find out how those who are misrepresented & not given a voice in dominant culture adapt transform, & make (bricolent) what is within the dominant culture into something that follows their own interests & rules.
michel de certeau s purpose in writing the practice of everyday life14
Michel de Certeau’s purpose in writing The Practice of Everyday Life
  • Bring to light the dispersed, tactical and make shift creativity of people already caught in the nets of social disciplining. Bricolage (artisan-like inventiveness). They escape the logic and rhetoric of the dominant.
  • Bring out how consumers make or do with the only products & culture of consumption they are forced into accepting under present conditions of capitalism.
  • Bring out people’s everyday inventiveness.
strategy tactics for de certeau
Strategy & Tactics for de Certeau:
  • Strategy is the calculation & organization of power possible for the proprietors, enterprises, governments, institutions, the winners of society who can keep power by surveillance, discipline, ownership. Political, economic & scientific rationality has been constructed on the strategic model.
  • Tactics is the calculation for those who do not own & dominate any space & properties, who are assumed to be the marginalized. They can only tactically manipulate space & time within the enemy’s field.
tactics the art of the weak
Tactics: the art of the weak
  • Tactics - the politics of the weak. It does not follow the expected rules of the game.
  • Many everyday practices are tactical in character.
  • To not lose out entirely and simply be the exploited tool of the system of work & consumption, to have any space for subjective pleasures & survival at all, a very tactical everyday practice has to be invented.
transgressive tactics of everyday life
Transgressive (越界的, 出轨的) Tactics of Everyday Life:
  • Poaching - to use imposed systems and rules for one’s own purpose.
  • Diversion - to study the rules of the game so well that one can manipulate it to one’s own advantage. The cunning of the weak.
  • La perruque – the worker’s own work disguised as work for the employer, spending paid time in one’s own way. Actually diverts time from work to one’s own creativity gains and pleasures.
  • Ethics of Tenactity – countless ways of refusing to agree with & obey the established order.
transgressive tactics of everyday life18
Transgressive (越界的, 出轨的) Tactics of Everyday Life:
  • Bricolage - a popular creative practice that puts together a mini-environment for the weak according to their needs and desires by cleverly transforming & adapting resources from established culture– e.g. meaning making and space making that allow them to overcome cultural, socio-economic constraints.
c made in hong kong
C. 梁款, 「Made in Hong Kong: 香港兒童玩具史」
  • 梁款是社会学家吳俊雄
  • 「寻日」的玩具 – bricolage: children’s everyday inventiveness - they make and do with the only things they have to create fun, pleasure, and community. They put together a mini-environment of play according to their needs and desires by cleverly transforming & adapting the only resources they have. They are the losers in the world of consumption, but they have friends and fun.
  • 「今日」的玩具 – the loss of everyday inventiveness in consumption?
  • What is your experience of bricolage?
  • This fly-swatter is a vernacular design that represents the prevailing mode of product design in Hong Kong. The surplus of one product – here flip-flop (拖鞋) – is converted into a new product by the manufacturer.
  • 人字拖乌蝇拍呈现了香港土法设计的灵活模式:当某些产品生产过剩,小厂商便把它们改装过来,变为另一种产品。
  • Hong Kong Red A (红 A) company design.
  • Red-orange plastic lampshade: Red light improves the look of red or brown food products - particularly meat & baked goods.
  • Often seem in meat stalls and fish stalls in the fresh food markets.
  • From Central to centres, from the department stores to the shopping malls and the megastores.
  • 1980s 屯门新市镇 & young nuclear families
  • 八佰伴之死, 师奶心碎!
  • 婆仔衫
  • 市集趁墟的特色
  • 代替街方福利会与社区中心的角色
  • 印花文化
  • The loss of a space for poaching
  • The loss of a space for making-do (bricolage)
  • Loss of a lifestyle and community.
d control through time the case of boredom vacation
D. Control through Time: the case of Boredom & Vacation
  • Today, instead of meaningful lived time, we have caged time, fragments we people call time slots, vacant spaces that people are obliged to fill up.
  • Vacation, the condition Tokio puts himself into, and the condition Pui Wai creates for herself by skipping classes, is, the time slot vacated for you according to a certain regime of organizing time.
  • Holidays are perhaps extinct for a lot of people. Days are no longer holy. Things need to be done when they should for a smooth running of the whole capitalist system.
control through time the case of boredom
Control through Time: the case of Boredom
  • Opting out of fulfilling certain phases in the schema disrupts the whole logic of the system.
  • Distractions, diversions, laziness are therefore, unpardonable. Laziness has to be denounced as guilty.
  • People used to the capitalist pattern of using time cannot tolerate time slots that are not filled with activities, that are not busy-ness/business. We call unoccupied time slots boredom.
tactics of time the case of boredom
Tactics of Time: the case of Boredom
  • Roland Barthes says in The Grain of the Voice, that there is no more true laziness, or idleness, the power to do nothing, and just sit there and doze, to throw yourself on the bed and "marinate“ (in Cantonese酉奄口野). Nowadays you can constantly notice people talking about the right to leisure activities. No one ever says anything about the right to idleness.
  • Fun article, Kristin Ross, “The Right to Laziness.”
tactics of time the case of bored students workers
Tactics of Time: the case of Bored Students & Workers
  • There are ways of making war against temporal repression. Boredom can become potentially subversive.
  • Such ideas in Hong Kong Cantonese:
  • 酉奄 鹵咸 蛋---preserve eggs with salt in intense extended stagnation;
  • 躝癱---creeping creatures of bodily and intellectual cynical paralysis;
  • pun3 pe5 (盤3帔5)---throwaway abandonment that literally paralyze machines of power that tries to run through it.
  • Or using dominant time for oneself in one’s own way: Diversion, la perruque, tenacity.
boredom as a t actic of resistance through reusing time
Boredom as a Tactic of Resistance through reusing time
  • Capitalist organization of Boredom wants to abolish certain possibilities by imprisoning them under the rule and definition of boredom, to deter people from boring into it, from making critical meanings. Certain borings somehow transgressdefined time and space and invest it with personal meanings and intensity.
  • A direct and overt protest against the state’s (建制的) managementof our living space & time is to take charge, to show that one is aware of it, in a way, to politicize it. To remind the system that it is wasting our time & banishing our space, we wastes, without remainder, its time & space in the most glaring ways, constantly, disturbingly. We dwell on boredom, boring into it. This laziness internalizes no guilt.
clara law dir autumn moon 1992 the time of boredom
Clara Law, dir., Autumn Moon (秋月), 1992. The Time of Boredom
  • Pui Wai: don't go to work?
  • Tokio: (imitating her utterance) don't go to school? (Pui Wai laughs and throws something at him.) I work very hard. When I'm bored, travel.
  • Pui Wai: Bored? What?
  • Tokio: Bored. You know? Er...(in Japanese): How to explain this?
  • Pui Wai: What!
  • Tokio: (Impatient.) No. Bored! (He takes out a piece of paper) You've got a pen? (He writes the character): 『悶』。
  • Pui Wai: Oh! Bored. Yes. (Smile).
the time of boredom
The Time of Boredom:
  • Tokio: A heart (in Japanese): trapped...shit. Yeah...a heart catching, no...caught inside a door.
  • Pui Wai: Yes, inside a door.
  • Tokio: So, I must go out. Travel. Eating.
  • Pui Wai: No. You better open your heart. (Tokio cannot understand.) In Cantonese, Cantonese, (Tokio says "Mm..." and then mumbles the idea Cantonese in Japanese) we...we say open the heart, 開心。
  • Tokio: Hoi Sum.
  • Pui Wai: 開 is open, 心 is heart. Open heart, happy.
  • Tokio: No! (He mimes the act of tearing open the chest/heart.) Too painful. (Both laugh.) (sic.)
from to tactics of time
From 悶 to 開心: tactics of time
  • In this translation of the same character 悶 in different languages, different imaginative and cultural dimensions, each can communicate a different idea of the same word, 悶 (boredom), freed from the constraint of the modern clock time, which is linear, chronological and spatially represented. This renders it possible to introduce the time of happiness, ease, pleasure, freedom.
  • Autumn moon can be Mid-Autumn Festival for Pui Wai, and the Japanese "Bon" Festival for Tokio.
from to i n cantonese sounds almost like moon everybody s own moon and yet possessed by nobody
From 悶 to 開心:悶in Cantonese sounds almost like "moon", everybody's own moon and yet possessed by nobody.
  • The character 悶 is a heart inside a door, like some kind of door locking up the heart, or that the heart locks up the door, not letting anything move and flow. It blocks the smooth movement of feelings and desires.
  • Some people think that if the heart escapes it will be all right. However, after the heart has escaped the door remains (悶变門), inside the chest, locking up the nothingness left behind by the heart's departure.
  • Perhaps there is no need for the heart to go into exile. One can always open the door and let being-happy (開心) take-place, at ease.
idleness re appropriating regimented time
Idleness: re-appropriating regimented time
  • Idleness to Pui Wai is a way of exposing the out-of-sync mental condition of the migrant. Unable to graft her subjectivity into the linear progress story of schooling organized by the culture she is bound to leave, she arbitrarily inscribes into herself an intensity she calls love, available to her from mainstream sexist culture. There seems pretty little raw materials available to the girl Pui Wai for her construction of resistance. However, something resistant happens in her use of time.
e g conversation between pui wai and her boyfriend
E.g.: conversation between Pui Wai and her boyfriend
  • The young man is simply called Wai's boyfriend. The film does not give him a name: uses him as a figure standing in for an ideology, a cultural positioning.
  • Boyfriend: Why did you run away from school? Do you know you could be expelled?
  • Pui Wai: I didn't feel like to.
  • Boyfriend: ...You'll have your public exam next year. Could affect your future.
  • Pui Wai: Will you take this? (She gives him a dried leaf.)
  • Boyfriend: I may not know you well....But I don't want to see you degenerate, understand?
  • Pui Wai: Will you walk with me to school tomorrow? Look, a dragon-fly...
pui wai s tactic of boring a migrant in limbo
Pui Wai’s tactic of boring: a migrant in limbo
  • She is about to leave Hong Kong for Canada.
  • If love is this linear, modernist time of progress that the boyfriend represents, & life for a young person is examinations & grades, then the film's suggestion that Pui Wai quits school despite her prince charming's moral lectures.
  • Pui Wai refuses to submit herself to the form of experience demanded by capitalist modernity's ideal of linear progress & functional utilitarianism. The film dwells rather, on the intensity of this limbo state of Pui Wai, being neither here nor there, floating in time, this migrant condition actively lived & transformed.
the undefinable therefore hard to discipline sense of time
The undefinable & therefore hard to discipline sense of time:
  • Pui Wai does not elaborate & provide reasons or meanings to her condition, except that she "didn't feel like to", which is an assertion of subjectivity most irritating to any prescriptive morality. Yet during this progression of time some intensity escapes as her positive experience rather than a vacant vacation.
  • Boredom can potentially be transformed from a state of lack into a process of unobstructed desire, a process that sometimes transforms social time into personal, quality time.
the undefinable therefore hard to discipline sense of time38
The undefinable & therefore hard to discipline sense of time:

Pui Wai’s tactics: Boredom in her case becomes a tactic of duration, a boring into and dwelling upon the problem of migration.

  • Ethics of Tenactity– countless ways of refusing to agree with & obey the established order (of schooling).
  • Tactical creativity of a girl caught in the nets of social disciplining.Bricolageuse of time that escapes the logic of the dominant. Apopular creative practice that puts together a mini-environment for the weak (an emotional environment of the migrant girl) according to their needs and desires, by cleverly transforming & adapting resources from established culture– e.g. making her own meaning, time, and space out of school time and consumer culture, which allow her to overcome the cultural constraints of a migrant situation.
e the evolution of hong kong
E. The Evolution of Hong Kong 茶餐廳:下午茶至爱:丝袜奶茶外加菠萝油
the evolution of hong kong
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:下午茶至爱:丝袜奶茶外加菠萝油
  • 从《阿飞正传》的皇后餐厅到《2046》的金雀餐厅,从江湖片《古惑仔》到《无间道》、《PTU》,都有一幕幕的电影场景的靈感來自於香港的茶餐厅。
  • 作为最道地、最草根的饮食场所,茶餐厅早已成为香港文化的一部分。去年香港举办的“十个最代表香港的设计”评选中,茶餐厅出人意料地排名第一,而位居第四位和第六位的,分别是菠萝 油(一种面包)和鸳鸯(一种饮品),这两样都是港式茶餐厅的“指定食品”。
  • How did this all come about?
the evolution of hong kong41
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:
  • The décor – the New York Jewish delicatessen
  • From "New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern" by Gaye Tuchman and Harry G. Levine. Contemporary Ethnography. 1992: Vol 22 No 3. pp. 382-407.
  • “Jews also appear to have been less attached to their food specialties than Italians were to theirs.…American Jews have never evolved what we might call a fancy tablecloth style of restaurant serving Eastern European food. The gourmet delicatessen with formica tables -- New York's Carnegie Deli, for example -- likely represents the pinnacle of the American Jewish ethnic restaurant.”
the evolution of hong kong42
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:
  • Cultural bricolage – everyday inventiveness, adapting quickly to the cultural context.
  • Where in Hong Kong did 茶餐厅 first appeared in Hong Kong?
  • What is 丝袜奶茶made of ?
  • Diversion - to study the rules of the game so well that one can manipulate it to one’s own advantage. The cunning of the weak.
  • Poaching - to turn the unjust system and hierarchy to one’s own purpose.
hong kong everyday language cross cultural traveling language linguistic bricolage
Hong Kong Everyday language: cross-cultural, traveling language – linguistic bricolage
  • 「夜冷」,「摆夜冷」
  • A Chinese historian said it might have come from Song dynasty when rich good for nothing sons needed to sell off the family’s treasures but were too ashamed to do it in daytime. However, he cannot show any proof. Should we believe him?
  • A more interesting discovery: in Herbert A. Giles, A glossary of Reference on Subjects Connected with the Far East(1866):
  • In Portuguese「Leilao」,
  • meaning “auction” in English,
  • Becomes “lelang” in Malay, meaning 「叫卖」&「拍卖」,
  • becomes「口黎 口蘭 」in 汕头语,
  • 「夜冷 」 (音 ye lang)in Cantonese.
hong kong everyday language cross cultural traveling language linguistic bricolage44
Hong Kong Everyday language: cross-cultural, traveling language– linguistic bricolage
  • 口古 口厘 – Cantonese for 「苦力」
  • Herbert A. Giles: entry on “coolie”. His elaboration:
  • Lowly servants and manual labor. Origins:
  • (1) Kholees or kolis in India. This is the way the people in the Southern metropolitan centres call the lowly ratroots people (servant) from the North.
  • (2) Kuli in Tamil, meaning slave (Tamil - a marginalized but very populated people/ethnic group in India).
  • (3) 「苦力」in Chinese: lowly work is a mixture of bitterness and strength. As adjective. Coolie Chinese as opposed to soldier boss, as coolie orange is opposed to mandarin orange.
f the case of
F. The case of 天臺屋居民運動:
  • This story exposes the hidden agenda of the story : Three Little Pigs as it is rewritten from folklore into 17th & 18th century French “Children’s literature” during the age of industrial revolution, capitalism & colonization.
  • Fairy tales are the civilizing mission of colonization from within, since the time you were small.
  • The most current version of The Three Little Pigs used by educators is the one that put the blame on the laziness of the first two little pigs, and the diligence and wittiness of the third. What are lost in this version of the tale are the alternative possibilities of the tale that goes beyond the Protestant work ethic.
The rooftop dwellers’ struggle for living and housing conditions in Hong Kong since the winter of 1994:
  • Rooftop dwellers are the poor and the immigrants. They built their homes, or live in homes built on the rooftops Hong Kong's high rise. Why?
  • These rooftop dwellings are largely cement built and permanent, much more comfortable, safe and conveniently situated than most temporary housings that the government can offer, in terms of structural safety, size, crime rate and infrastructure.
  • There are over 12,000 rooftop dwellings on over 4,500 buildings in Hong Kong and there are at least over 80,000 people living is such conditions.
Rooftop dwellings is not an accidental happening, but the result of policies & conditions of living in Hong Kong:
  • Post war Hong Kong prospers through minimalizing welfare as well as exploiting land resources.
  • Rooftop dwellings, hillside squatters and cage homes are all grass-root self-reliance in solving their own housing problems in face of government reluctance to provide permanent public housing.
  • The government's muted tolerance of such in the past at least 30 years before the demolitions in 1995 clearly demonstrates its intention to withhold as much as possible, resources from grass-root housing. There are over 150,000 entries waiting for a public rental home at that time.
structural spatial exploitation of the poor the immigrant
Structural, spatial exploitation of the poor & the immigrant:
  • Governmental policies also allow Hong Kong to top the world in land prices. The government's shift towards the inflation and re-appropriation of crown and private land as its main source of income has irretrievably triggered this process, leaving grass-root people with no alternatives for shelter than the ones they have already invented for themselves.
  • The government decides to demolish rooftop dwelling over 85 strategically chosen buildings in 1994 due to an agreement with the Chinese government to redevelop old districts into financial zones, which is of course, welcomed by transnational and local developers and multi-national lending corporations.
structural exploitation blamed on the victim
Structural exploitation blamed on the victim:
  • The government also profit from the rates and the property taxes levied on rooftop dwellings, giving an impression that they are “legal.”
  • By 2003, they have demolished over 1340 rooftop homes. They intend to complete the demolition on top of 4,500 buildings by 2007. It has nothing to do with improving grass-root housing conditions, though. On the contrary, due to loopholes between the laws and arbitrary and uncoordinated government policies, the apathetic government has driven rooftop dwellers to desperation, while leaving the owners, lawyers and agents who built and sold these properties alone.
urban renewal raising profitability of properties demolitions the rooftop migrants turned nomads
Urban renewal, raising profitability of properties, demolitions: the rooftop Migrants turned Nomads:
  • Rooftop dwellers and temporary housing residents too, are driven to many years of migrant hardships, with the threat that one will end up in one of those temporary housings that are not targeted for demolition and public housing relocation.
  • Temporary housing is not made for long term residence, yet many people are forced to live under those stressed conditions for many years. Nonetheless, some temporary housing residents cynically celebrated their 12th year or more at a place called temporary.
  • Rooftop dwellers, many of whom are and were new immigrants, are again uprooted and forced into migrancy, who are not offered the opportunity to settle down, however much they want and try to.
the migrants turned nomads
The Migrants turned Nomads:
  • A migrant has no place of her own that is not already dominated by the resident society in the first place. Uprooted, she loses her place, with all her invested webs of affections, socio-cultural relations and resources, all crucial to grass-root subsistence.
  • Rooftop dwellers, forced from their homes into desperate migration in the city as street fighters, however, transforms this imposed desperation into a form of resistance.
  • They transform in a sense, from migrants into nomads, who take migration as an way of living. These nomads, in a gesture of cynical abandonment, throw away all internalizations and illusions about the state to positively adopt and appropriate nomadic life itself, a manner of being absolutely exterior to the state logic.
the migrants turned nomads52
The Migrants turned Nomads:
  • This is not a romantic theoretical fancy that people will adopt lightly, simply for experiment's sake, as it is common knowledge that nomads fare miserably under our kinds of regime: we will go to any lengths to settle them, and they barely have enough to subsist on.
  • The Bedouin nomads are denied their abode by the Israeli state, which takes their land away from them, literally throw them into the rubbish dump not far away, so as to build Israeli settlement colonies on the place now called West Bank.
  • Some of the rooftop protesters are out of work for a long while. No political idealism could persuade somebody to do so, if it is not the to-be nomad's own desire and decision.
spatial resistance of the nomads in the city
Spatial resistance of the nomads in the city: 上街, 靜坐, 遊行, 示威
  • Up on the top plateau of the city-scape, and down at the plateaus of the city's transits and passageways, the nomad occupies, inhabits, holds that space, live and grow and vibrate with the intensity of their desiring, anger and warring spirit.
  • State history has always learned from the nomads the machineries of war (guerrilla warfare) and appropriate its energy into the apparatuses of the state. The state has many ways of making street fighters into legislators, protesters into the receptionist of protests, divide and run them and make them control and exploit each other.
spatial resistance of the nomads in the city the micro technologies of control
Spatial resistance of the nomads in the city & the micro-technologies of control:
  • Whenever different people come together despite their differences for a singular purpose, tanks, the military, the police et cetera, will soon be rolling in, whether it be the public space called 天安門, 花園道, 街巿街, 荔枝角道 or 彌敦道, irrespective of the scale of the struggle.
  • The state wants to deter people from boring into the public nature of their problems, from making boring take-place and vibrate with intensity.
nomadic temporal tactic of boring
Nomadic Temporal Tactic of boring:
  • Idleness to rooftop dwellers driven out of work by the heavy demand of time and energy in this process of struggle has been transformed from a state of lack into a process of unobstructed desire, a resistance that poaches time from the state.
  • The intense form of activity in this boring is very exhaustive, and the maintaining of high intensity that is nomadology wears people out. Yet for as long as it is bearable, the warring spirit of subversive activities and outright anger in turn revitalizes the participants from the otherwise frustrating encounters with disciplining, rejections, refusals, intimidations, betrayals.
nomadic spatial tactics
Nomadic Spatial Tactics:
  • A struggle for living space denied by the state is necessarily a territorial & spatial warfare. Oppositional politics would obviously lose out as rooftop dwellers have literally no grounds to oppose from in the first place. One side is also overwhelmingly more powerful.
  • It requires therefore a tactic of appropriation, of challenging, pushing the state's control over normative public territories to their limits, to take them literally to the point of absurdity & novelty, opening up such definitions of space.
  • The demonstrators detach such spaces from their habitual use so as to appropriate the public space for their own production of critical social meanings.
  • The point is not to oppose conquest with conquest, but to expose, to demonstrate the absurd violence of the state's conquest of their living space.
a war of representation between unequal parties
A war of representation between unequal parties:
  • This persistent and continuous everyday struggle for living space & survival, this resistance against (mal-)administration will be silenced by the ruler’s discourses of absorption or accommodation.
  • Since what the rooftop dwellers demand is the simple spatial entitlement to a permanent rented piece of public property they can make into a home, like what other hijackers of crown colony (hill side squatters etc.) are entitled to,
  • so one tactic is that so long as this is denied, so long as the state invades and denies them a private space, they make any public space whatsoever, a possible permanent home---nomadic pure and simple.
nomadic spatial tactics58
Nomadic spatial tactics:
  • Nomadic space has no boundaries and is everywhere. If the busiest street in Kowloon is a space of transience, the rooftop dwellers make Nathan Road home, at the juncture of a bank, a supermarket, a school, a McDonald's, right opposite the Prince Station of the Mass Transit Railway---in short, a juncture of the major institutions of city life.
The hidden agenda behind the Three Little Pigs fable– the war over time, space memory and representation:
  • Everybody wants a permanent, safe, comfortable house of brick, if they can afford it. They cannot, not because they are lazy, they actually work very hard, but because Big Bad Wolf eats up the land and inflate them as real estate, reclaim others' living space as corporate and public property, prevent others from building their own homes and blow up the rest of the abodes they are able to come up with, so that price inflating real estate properties can be built on that very same piece of land that the little pigs have always lived on, for centuries, millennia even. Like the Bedouin nomads or the rooftop dwellers.
The materiality of the fable has to be changed in our present reversed folk rewriting : from brick to wood
  • The rooftop little pigs started off with diligently built cement & brick houses on rooftops. Or they bought them or rented them through hard work & thrifty savings.
  • The big bad wolf came, more forceful than the tale would like to admit, with private developers' legal and physical threats and bullying, with state police & institutional powers of intimidation & the simulating technology of a hegemonic mainstream information & news industry.
  • The houses of brick were easily demolished. And they huffed, and they puffed and they blew the house in.
the materiality of the fable was totally reversed from bricks to wood to straw
The materiality of the fable was totally reversed---from bricks to wood to straw
  • The rooftop dwellers turned street sleeping demonstrators built some houses of wood on the busy streets of Mongkok. 陳菊芳(Mrs. Ho) attentively sets up an altar for the gods and says to herself"钉实口的,口吾好俾佢口地 拆". Outside the lime light of broadcasting cameras, she hammers, murmuring to herself,"好靓喔个屋企!"Like her, every participant affectively signed their names on the walls, redefining & transforming the public space into their communal space of belonging. In the streets they lived, for weeks.
  • When this too was demolished, when the police huffed & puffed and blow the house in, the street dwellers moved to the Mongkok Railway Station & lived on canvas-straw tents. From brick to wood to straw.
invading occupying public space wasting the time of the state
Invading & occupying public space & wasting the time of the state
  • If officials fail to grant a hearing, they become a monumental capacity for waiting. They colonize another piece of crown colony, the housing department conference room.
  • Exceedingly politely, they transform the room into a guerrilla base, bringing food, water, walkie-talkies, blankets, mobile phones, video-cameras, battery chargers, cigarettes, playing cards, newspaper, radio.
  • Boring away, days on end, preferring this air-conditioned public space to the streets in summer. They negotiated the space so politely, that physical police violence will turn out in their favor before the camera.
war of representation
War of representation:
  • In this war of media representation, the police forced the burden of intimidation onto the security guards, choosing the oldest, weakest possible ones. This is a long war of time, space & representation. It is about the power to appropriate narratives, images & representations in one's favor. Through the aggregation of more resources, more of everything, the state temporarily succeeds in containing them and forcing them into temporary housing---another form of houses of wood.
  • There, they will have to wait or fight, for better or for worse, with not much hope, for public housing resettlement, the final house of brick again, that which they started off living in, in the first place.
poverty unemployment is not the only or most accurate explanation
Poverty & unemployment is not the only or most accurate explanation:
  • Why is the number of street hawkers increasing even as Hong Kong’s economy was growing in the 1980s & employment rate was highest ever?
  • Why a factory worker and a high school dropout become hawkers? Be one’s own boss. The refusal of the disciplinary and exploitative space of work & school.
  • It is not just an alternative to shopping malls. It lives on the success of shopping malls, trying to encroach the spaces nearest the centers of business/busy-ness.
why control persecute the street hawkers since 1845
Why control & persecute the street hawkers? Since 1845…
  • The symbiotic relation between the 小贩 & the小贩管理队, later renamed the一般事务管理队 (Hawker Control Task Force of the Environmental Hygiene Administration Division).
  • 有牌小贩 – 行业老化 - 营生策略
  • The technologies of Fruit hawkers 生果车,cooked food hawkers 小吃车,clothes & accessories hawkers 衣服车
  • Micro-politics of control - stigmatization, labeling, temporal-spatial disciplining, policy
  • Micro-politics of resistance – niche negotiation, appropriation, bricolage, poaching