Un-imagining the local/future : filmic engagement with the absence of hope

Document Type


Source Publication

Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference 2016

Publication Date



Association for Cultural Studies


As the world and the neighbourhood we live in are progressively mediated and de-localised, globalization drives commodity-, information- and ideologyflows to multifarious interface and complex engagement with individualised differences. Whereas a politics of the local emerges in contemporary Hong Kong through various embodiments of critique clustering around hopelessness as its intellectual core, the recent convergence of “localist” discourses foreshadows contradictions in the upsurge of antagonism. (See special issue edited by Stephen Chan entitled “Hong Kong at a crossroads”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 16, no. 3, September 2015, 327-494.) In face of such a deep crisis, we need to critically unpack the constraints and possibilities of the de-localised orientations for our specific contemporary society. As identities are made and inscribed in discourses and practices heavily embedded in locally emergencies and constantly take shape in the process of multiple on-site cultural-political constructions, I want to examine the formation of “locality” and re-think the making of local “subjects” as key players in the contemporary crisis. We could ask: to what extent would concepts such as the “constitutive other” (S. Hall, J. Butler), or locality as a “structure of feeling” (R. Williams, A. Appadurai), help us understand the worldly practices and appreciate the existential problems people face today? Is the local an alternative to the global and the national alike? Is it to be taken as the antagonist or accomplice of the other, with which the subject of cultural crisis must struggle? What are the power dynamics at play and the moral engagements thus engendered? Confronted by the challenges facing post-1997 Hong Kong, this paper provides the contexts of the latest filmic engagement with the local, which mediates the absence of hope in its future imagination, and poses the subject of dissent as a question for the re-invention of social cohesion. With reference to the 2014 Umbrella Movement and Hong Kong’s uncertain fate come 2047, I shall examine the social imaginary that enables one to un-think, indeed to un-imagine, the cultural future of those inhabiting the locality. Films to be examined include commercial films, independent documentary films, as well as short films on the internet.

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Copyright © 2016 Association for Cultural Studies.



Recommended Citation

Chan, C. S. (2016, December). Un-imagining the local/future: filmic engagement with the absence of hope. Paper presented at the Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference 2016, Australia.

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