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Repoliticizing Neoliberalism through Democratic Struggles: Hong Kong’s Self-writing and the Umbrella Revolution

Tue, June 23, 11:05am to 1:00pm, South Building, Floor: 9th Floor, S901


The recent struggle for "genuine" universal suffrage in Hong Kong, coined as "Umbrella Revolution" (2014) by western media, poses an interesting question to the scholarship on neoliberalism. It is a spontaneous direct action against the Chinese authoritarian state who allegedly infringes the principles of formal democracy, on the one hand, and an unprecedented occupy campaign obstructing the core areas of this financial city and shattering its normal way of life and operation, on the other. In contrast to the anti-globalization movements in western countries, which usually challenges rather than endorses constitutional democracy, Hong Kong's democratic struggles articulate the agenda of constitutional reforms with a local critique of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, as many critics suggest, does not only operate as an extra-territorial power of capital flow, but also proliferates in diverse sites of governance which perpetuate the production of the enterprising self and facilitate a competitive yet de-politicized mode of social existence. The "Umbrella Revolution" triggers a rebellious moment and temporary autonomous space for protesters to reposition themselves in Hong Kong's politico-economic realities. This paper evaluates this process at the individual level by analyzing the ordinary protesters' online writings. I argue that the imaginaries derived from their struggles for formal democracy provides an ontological break for participants from their everyday life, thereby repoliticizing the neoliberal governmental rationalities by re-orienting their body and mind in this city.