Eun Soo LEE

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)


Cultural Studies

First Advisor

Prof. HOYNG Rolien


As stated in the Urban Renewal Strategy (2011), “the problem of urban decay” has been identified as the major task of urban renewal in Hong Kong. Rows of densely packed, “dilapidated” tenement buildings constitute the imaginary of a declining urban landscape that, much like the squatter areas of the 1950s, are seen to pose threats to public health and to the “prestige” of Hong Kong. I propose the concept of the discourse of ruination as a way to interrogate and at the same time, de-naturalise the pervasive assumption of the problem of decay, which serves to rationalise and perpetuate the cycle of destruction and renewal. I argue that crucial to this process is how certain sites are identified and framed as “pockets of decay”, which simultaneously “brings ruin upon” these spaces by rendering them as useless. This research investigates (educational) exhibitions, operated by the key actors of urban renewal to observe how exhibitions, as discursive practice, construct and consolidate knowledges about urban decay, and how it configures and normalises the logic of urban renewal. In the second case study, I present a critical reflection of the ongoing preservation project of the Blue House Cluster in order to highlight how heritage preservation is incorporated into the larger framework of urban renewal, and the erasures entailed in ‘preservation’ in the process of transforming ‘ruins’ to ‘heritage’. By converging insights derived from ‘ruin studies’, and studies on urban space and its power relations, this thesis aims to illuminate how the ‘discourse of ruination’ operates in the logic of urban renewal in Hong Kong.



Recommended Citation

Lee, E. S. (2016). The discourse of ruination: Interrogating urban renewal In Hong Kong (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from