From resistance to co-Living: rural activism in contemporary Hong Kong
Excessive development has not only disrupted traditional social life in Hong Kong, it has also destabilized the existential conditions of people as individuals and even more as collectives, as in the case of the “Northeastern New Territories Development Plan.” Mapopo, an activist organization based in Ma Shi Po, one of the affected villages, stood up in opposition to the Plan and, furthermore, raised issues around just what existential conditions of life should mean spatially, materially and culturally. This makes Mapopo’s activism a good example of the broader contemporary urban struggle for existence and recognition. I begin this article by showing how Mapopo participants met, what discursive forces and affective capacities they put into place, and what manners of human and nonhuman interaction were involved. Two examples of the ecotours hosted by Mapopo activists will illustrate why and how lifestyle came to figure prominently in their workshops and walking tours. I would argue that a broader caring for the environment and other species in response to encroaching land development is both political and ethical. Mapopo took up political demands for change from more powerful actors while engaging in the ethical business of rebuilding the relation of self to others. The sensory experiences from ecotours may someday constitute the repertoire of a new utopian future in a time of general crisis and precarity. But before that materializes, the formation process is subject to disputes and fissures.
KEYWORDS: Ethics; lifepolitics; Hong Kong; urban space; social movement
Shaw-wu Jung is a Taiwan-based anthropologist at Academia Sinica who focuses on law, politics, and the politics of culture. He previously engaged with various communities and cultural contexts in Taiwan. To prepare for comparative study, since 2010 he has conducted fieldwork in Hong Kong where a series of related political and legal issues in light of civil society, citizen empowerment, and local culture were explored.