Subject formation in Hong Kong’s “alternative communities”, 2010-2020

  • Chor See CHAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This research explores the history and development of the concept “community” in Hong Kong from the late colonial period to date, aiming to show the complex understanding of this ambiguous term. Responding to the (colonial) government’s invention of community as a means of control, there have been different types of bottom-up intervention that have sought to re-define the meaning of that concept. My research focuses on one of these attempts that emerged in the 2010s during the new social movements in Hong Kong. This attempt has been to create what I call “alternative communities”, in which members intentionally build communities with their own unique practices to demonstrate their shared values. I have picked three communities to study, two are rural and emphasises agriculture-related practices, while one is based in the urban area and runs different kinds of collective experiments including a vegetarian co-op restaurant.

This ethnographic research involves participant observation and in-depth interviews with community members. I illustrate the life trajectories of the community members and explore the continuities and discontinuities of their political actions before and after they joined the communities. The thesis focuses on the members’ life practices in the communities to analyse their understanding of the larger social and political context.

I argue that the subjects’ practices in the communities are conducted with an aim to transform the society, but not in the conventional way that involves opposition to the state or engagement in electoral politics. Through analysing the subject formation of the participants, what may be revealed is a fundamental set of reflections on a vision for a better society. Instead of asking the question “is community building a kind of resistance (抗爭, in Cantonese: kong jang)?”, what the research explores is the attempt to expand the vocabulary of activism to imagine different modes and aims of actions in the public domain.
Date of Award19 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorTejaswini NIRANJANA (Supervisor)

Cite this