SOSC 005
May 4, 2005
Mirana M. Szeto
Hong Kong Everyday Culture
A. Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 1856 The Second Opium War between China and
Britain began. Anti-British workers general strikes
erupted 3 times in Hong Kong between November
1856 and March 1858.
 1857 January, several hundred British people
consumed poisoned bread by a Hong Kong
Chinese bakery. No suspect was ever found.
Awards were offered to those willing to
assassinate British officials. Workers were on
strike and shops closed in protest against the
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 The conditions of living for Chinese people in the
British colony were appalling. The government never
provided any health, housing, welfare and education.
 In 1860, locals banded together to create a self-help
charity organization to care for the poor and provide
basic healthcare and social welfare - the Tung Wah
 The success of this organization was considered
threatening by the colonial government. It used the
1894 Bubonic plague in Hong Kong as an excuse to
persecute the organization & undercut its leading role in
the local Chinese community.
 1894 The Chinese community was outraged at the way
the British colonial government handled the plague,
protested en masse, causing a lot of stress in the city.
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 1905 In reaction to the series of anti-Chinese and anti-
Asian racist legislations in America, Hong Kong
workers boycotted US goods. Sun Yat-sen started the
Hong Kong arm of the Xingzhonghui (興中會).
 1908 The first anti-Japanese demonstration in Hong
Kong against Japanese imperial advances in Chinese
along with other European powers.
 1911 The Chinese Revolution. Hong Kong people
rejoiced and cut their pigtails en masse. There were also
attacks on the British elite in the passion of some
demonstrations. The British cracked down on the
nationalist movement.
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 1917 Hong Kong people boycotted public transport.
 1919 The May Fourth Movement in China & HK.
 1920 The mechanic’s strike – got 20% to 30% pay
 Chinese migration to Hong Kong increased. Severe
tension on housing and food supply. Prices inflated to
levels intolerable to the poor working class. Workers’
movements towards unionization intensified in Hong
Kong since around 1913. By 1922, there were around
100 unions in Hong Kong. In 1922, the seamen
generated a strike for a 30-40% pay increase. A general
strike was proposed. Food & transport industry workers,
office workers & coolies joined. British forces opened
fire on the strikers killing 6 & wounding several hundred.
Succeeded in getting a 30% pay increase for the seamen.
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 1925-27 In support of Guangzhou & Shanghai, Hong
Kong workers went on strike & frequent demonstrations.
British forces opened fire on strikers killing 52, leading
to a general strike included low level civil servants. At
the peak, around 250,000 workers (30% of the
population) left Hong Kong.
 Demands: basket of workers rights in Hong Kong, a
general 25% decrease in rent across board, & the right
to organize, freedom of expression in the press, equality
between Chinese and British people in front of the law,
the right of Hong Kong people to live anywhere in the
city, the right to vote and other political rights.
 The British government refused the demands &
outlawed strikes & unions.
Hong Kong – a city of protests?
 1931-45 Frequent protests and guerrilla fights against
the Japanese.
 1948 Terrible housing conditions caused squatters to
protest. The colonial police opened fire on
demonstrating squatters in the Kowloon Walled City,
wounding over 10.
 1950s. During the 50s, the colonial regime closed down
three media organizations, infringing on the people’s
freedom of expression.
 1953. A terrible fire broke out in Hong Kong’s Shek
Gip mei district. A social movement followed, which
succeeded in pushing the Hong Kong government into
building public housing for the poor.
Why are Hong Kong people
protesting all the time?
 The British colonial government, like any
colonial government, aims at extracting the
most they can from the colony. They would
do the least for the colonized people if they
 If not driven by crisis situations, the British
colonial government would not bother about
ordinary people’s frustrations and anger
against the lack of social amenities and
welfare, as well as the increasing everyday
injustices & exploitation.
Why are Hong Kong people
protesting all the time?
 Thus, every social welfare and just policy is the
result of people’s persistent demand and
organized protests.
 Otherwise, only disasters like the Shek Kip Mei
fire (1953) and outbreaks of epidemics that
could threaten the safety of the elite, as well as
the stability of law and order, could prompt the
government to improve the situation.
 Even so, Hong Kong people need to constantly
put pressure on the government to make policies
more effective, widely available, and reasonable.
Why are Hong Kong people
protesting all the time?
 Ordinary people in Hong Kong used to be mainly dirt
poor workers, new immigrants & their children.
 Even today, there are 2.3 million people who live in
public housing & cannot afford the basic cost of living in
Hong Kong without housing subsidy.
 香港社会服务联会最近的报告指, HK贫富差距是世界第三大.
According to the Gini Index, HK’s rich poor gap is the
5th worst in the world. 香港是全世界生活消费指数第5贵 (东京, 伦
敦, 莫斯科, 大阪, 香港. NY第12). 原因是, 衣食住行中, HK住很贵.
 According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, 2004
地产价格比较, HK is 2nd most expensive in the world
(Tokyo, HK, London , Singapore , NY).
 楚原 (导演),《七十二家房客》,香港,1973。Chu
Yuan, dir., The House of 72 Tenants, Hong Kong, 1973.
B. What can we learn from Hong
Kong everyday culture?
The general concerns, attitudes & active
agency of those Hong Kong people who
are often misunderstood, silenced &
ignored by dominant assumptions.
Learn about the ways grassroot (草根) and
ordinary Hong Kong people escape
control, fight exploitation, and put
together creatively what they need and
Why do we need ways to study
Everyday Life?
 To find ways to bring out the survival tactics &
agencies of the dominated in face of the discipline &
exploitation exercised by the dominant social
formations & institutions.
 To discover the relation between socio-economic
injustice suffered by marginalized people and the
socio-economic conditions that perpetuate them.
 To counter the passive & -ve picture the dominant
system paint of the marginalized people in order to
help produce the arguments & analysis from the
position of the underprivileged.
Michel de Certeau’s purpose in
writing The Practice of Everyday Life
 To bring to light the concealed models of action
characteristic of those who are the dominated in
society. Allow the unarticulated tactics to be
taken seriously.
 Find out how those who are misrepresented &
not given a voice in dominant culture adapt
transform, & make (bricolent) what is within the
dominant culture into something that follows
their own interests & rules.
Michel de Certeau’s purpose in
writing The Practice of Everyday Life
 Bring to light the dispersed, tactical and make
shift creativity of people already caught in the
nets of social disciplining. Bricolage (artisanlike inventiveness). They escape the logic and
rhetoric of the dominant.
 Bring out how consumers make or do with the
only products & culture of consumption they are
forced into accepting under present conditions of
 Bring out people’s everyday inventiveness.
Strategy & Tactics for de Certeau:
 Strategy is the calculation & organization of power
possible for the proprietors, enterprises,
governments, institutions, the winners of society
who can keep power by surveillance, discipline,
ownership. Political, economic & scientific
rationality has been constructed on the strategic
 Tactics is the calculation for those who do not own
& dominate any space & properties, who are
assumed to be the marginalized. They can only
tactically manipulate space & time within the
enemy’s field.
Tactics: the art of the weak
 Tactics - the politics of the weak. It does not
follow the expected rules of the game.
 Many everyday practices are tactical in character.
 To not lose out entirely and simply be the
exploited tool of the system of work &
consumption, to have any space for subjective
pleasures & survival at all, a very tactical
everyday practice has to be invented.
Transgressive (越界的, 出轨的)
Tactics of Everyday Life:
 Poaching - to use imposed systems and rules for
one’s own purpose.
 Diversion - to study the rules of the game so well
that one can manipulate it to one’s own
advantage. The cunning of the weak.
 La perruque – the worker’s own work disguised
as work for the employer, spending paid time in
one’s own way. Actually diverts time from work
to one’s own creativity gains and pleasures.
 Ethics of Tenactity – countless ways of refusing
to agree with & obey the established order.
Transgressive (越界的, 出轨的)
Tactics of Everyday Life:
 Bricolage - a popular creative practice that
puts together a mini-environment for the
weak according to their needs and desires by
cleverly transforming & adapting resources
from established culture– e.g. meaning
making and space making that allow them to
overcome cultural, socio-economic
C. 梁款, 「Made in Hong Kong: 香
 梁款是社会学家吳俊雄
 「寻日」的玩具 – bricolage: children’s everyday
inventiveness - they make and do with the only things
they have to create fun, pleasure, and community. They
put together a mini-environment of play according to
their needs and desires by cleverly transforming &
adapting the only resources they have. They are the
losers in the world of consumption, but they have
friends and fun.
 「今日」的玩具 – the loss of everyday inventiveness
in consumption?
 What is your experience of bricolage?
Everyday inventiveness in Hong
Kong in the 60s: What is this?
 This fly-swatter is a vernacular design that
represents the prevailing mode of product
design in Hong Kong. The surplus of one
product – here flip-flop (拖鞋) – is
converted into a new product by the
 人字拖乌蝇拍呈现了香港土法设计的灵
Everyday inventiveness in Hong
Kong in the 60s: What is this?
 Hong Kong Red A (红 A) company design.
 Red-orange plastic lampshade: Red light
improves the look of red or brown food
products - particularly meat & baked goods.
 Often seem in meat stalls and fish stalls in
the fresh food markets.
 From Central to centres, from the department stores to
the shopping malls and the megastores.
 1980s 屯门新市镇 & young nuclear families
 八佰伴之死, 师奶心碎!
 婆仔衫
 市集趁墟的特色
 代替街方福利会与社区中心的角色
 印花文化
 The loss of a space for poaching
 The loss of a space for making-do (bricolage)
 Loss of a lifestyle and community.
D. Control through Time: the case of
Boredom & Vacation
 Today, instead of meaningful lived time, we have
caged time, fragments we people call time slots,
vacant spaces that people are obliged to fill up.
 Vacation, the condition Tokio puts himself into, and
the condition Pui Wai creates for herself by skipping
classes, is, the time slot vacated for you according to
a certain regime of organizing time.
 Holidays are perhaps extinct for a lot of people. Days
are no longer holy. Things need to be done when
they should for a smooth running of the whole
capitalist system.
Control through Time: the case of
 Opting out of fulfilling certain phases in the
schema disrupts the whole logic of the system.
 Distractions, diversions, laziness are therefore,
unpardonable. Laziness has to be denounced as
 People used to the capitalist pattern of using
time cannot tolerate time slots that are not filled
with activities, that are not busy-ness/business.
We call unoccupied time slots boredom.
Tactics of Time: the case of Boredom
 Roland Barthes says in The Grain of the Voice,
that there is no more true laziness, or idleness,
the power to do nothing, and just sit there and
doze, to throw yourself on the bed and
"marinate“ (in Cantonese酉奄口野). Nowadays
you can constantly notice people talking about
the right to leisure activities. No one ever says
anything about the right to idleness.
 Fun article, Kristin Ross, “The Right to
Tactics of Time: the case of Bored
Students & Workers
 There are ways of making war against temporal
repression. Boredom can become potentially subversive.
 Such ideas in Hong Kong Cantonese:
 酉奄 鹵咸 蛋---preserve eggs with salt in intense
extended stagnation;
 躝癱---creeping creatures of bodily and intellectual
cynical paralysis;
 pun3 pe5 (盤3帔5)---throwaway abandonment that
literally paralyze machines of power that tries to run
through it.
 Or using dominant time for oneself in one’s own way:
Diversion, la perruque, tenacity.
Boredom as a Tactic of Resistance
through reusing time
 Capitalist organization of Boredom wants to abolish
certain possibilities by imprisoning them under the rule
and definition of boredom, to deter people from boring
into it, from making critical meanings. Certain borings
somehow transgress defined time and space and invest it
with personal meanings and intensity.
 A direct and overt protest against the state’s (建制的)
management of our living space & time is to take charge,
to show that one is aware of it, in a way, to politicize it. To
remind the system that it is wasting our time & banishing
our space, we wastes, without remainder, its time & space
in the most glaring ways, constantly, disturbingly. We
dwell on boredom, boring into it. This laziness internalizes
no guilt.
Clara Law, dir., Autumn Moon (秋月),
1992. The Time of Boredom
 Pui Wai:
 Tokio:
 Pui Wai:
 Tokio:
 Pui Wai:
 Tokio:
 Pui Wai: don't go to work?
(imitating her utterance) don't go
to school? (Pui Wai laughs and throws
something at him.) I work very hard. When I'm
bored, travel.
Bored? What?
Bored. You know? Er...(in Japanese): How to
explain this?
(Impatient.) No. Bored! (He takes out a piece of
paper) You've got a pen? (He writes the
character): 『悶』。
Oh! Bored. Yes. (Smile).
The Time of Boredom:
 Tokio:
A heart (in Japanese): trapped...shit. Yeah...a
heart catching, no...caught inside a door.
 Pui Wai: Yes, inside a door.
 Tokio:
So, I must go out. Travel. Eating.
 Pui Wai: No. You better open your heart. (Tokio
cannot understand.) In Cantonese, Cantonese,
(Tokio says "Mm..." and then mumbles the
idea Cantonese in Japanese) we...we say open
the heart, 開心。
 Tokio:
Hoi Sum.
 Pui Wai: 開 is open, 心 is heart. Open heart, happy.
 Tokio:
No! (He mimes the act of tearing open the
chest/heart.) Too painful. (Both laugh.) (sic.)
From 悶 to 開心: tactics of time
 In this translation of the same character 悶 in
different languages, different imaginative and
cultural dimensions, each can communicate a
different idea of the same word, 悶 (boredom),
freed from the constraint of the modern clock
time, which is linear, chronological and spatially
represented. This renders it possible to introduce
the time of happiness, ease, pleasure, freedom.
 Autumn moon can be Mid-Autumn Festival for
Pui Wai, and the Japanese "Bon" Festival for
From 悶 to 開心:悶 in Cantonese sounds
almost like "moon", everybody's own moon
and yet possessed by nobody.
 The character 悶 is a heart inside a door, like some kind
of door locking up the heart, or that the heart locks up
the door, not letting anything move and flow. It blocks
the smooth movement of feelings and desires.
 Some people think that if the heart escapes it will be all
right. However, after the heart has escaped the door
remains (悶变門), inside the chest, locking up the
nothingness left behind by the heart's departure.
 Perhaps there is no need for the heart to go into exile.
One can always open the door and let being-happy (開
心) take-place, at ease.
Idleness: re-appropriating regimented
 Idleness to Pui Wai is a way of exposing the out-
of-sync mental condition of the migrant. Unable
to graft her subjectivity into the linear progress
story of schooling organized by the culture she
is bound to leave, she arbitrarily inscribes into
herself an intensity she calls love, available to
her from mainstream sexist culture. There seems
pretty little raw materials available to the girl
Pui Wai for her construction of resistance.
However, something resistant happens in her
use of time.
E.g.: conversation between Pui Wai
and her boyfriend
 The young man is simply called Wai's boyfriend. The
film does not give him a name: uses him as a figure
standing in for an ideology, a cultural positioning.
 Boyfriend: Why did you run away from school? Do
you know you could be expelled?
 Pui Wai:
I didn't feel like to.
 Boyfriend: ...You'll have your public exam next year.
Could affect your future.
 Pui Wai: Will you take this? (She gives him a dried
 Boyfriend: I may not know you well....But I don't want
to see you degenerate, understand?
 Pui Wai: Will you walk with me to school tomorrow?
Look, a dragon-fly...
Pui Wai’s tactic of boring: a migrant in
 She is about to leave Hong Kong for Canada.
 If love is this linear, modernist time of progress that
the boyfriend represents, & life for a young person is
examinations & grades, then the film's suggestion that
Pui Wai quits school despite her prince charming's
moral lectures.
 Pui Wai refuses to submit herself to the form of
experience demanded by capitalist modernity's ideal of
linear progress & functional utilitarianism. The film
dwells rather, on the intensity of this limbo state of Pui
Wai, being neither here nor there, floating in time, this
migrant condition actively lived & transformed.
The undefinable & therefore hard to
discipline sense of time:
 Pui Wai does not elaborate & provide reasons or
meanings to her condition, except that she "didn't
feel like to", which is an assertion of subjectivity
most irritating to any prescriptive morality. Yet
during this progression of time some intensity
escapes as her positive experience rather than a
vacant vacation.
 Boredom can potentially be transformed from a
state of lack into a process of unobstructed desire,
a process that sometimes transforms social time
into personal, quality time.
The undefinable & therefore hard to
discipline sense of time:
Pui Wai’s tactics: Boredom in her case becomes a tactic
of duration, a boring into and dwelling upon the
problem of migration.
 Ethics of Tenactity– countless ways of refusing to agree
with & obey the established order (of schooling).
 Tactical creativity of a girl caught in the nets of social
disciplining. Bricolage use of time that escapes the
logic of the dominant. Apopular creative practice that
puts together a mini-environment for the weak (an
emotional environment of the migrant girl) according
to their needs and desires, by cleverly transforming &
adapting resources from established culture– e.g.
making her own meaning, time, and space out of
school time and consumer culture, which allow her to
overcome the cultural constraints of a migrant situation.
E. The Evolution of Hong Kong 茶餐廳:
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:
 从《阿飞正传》的皇后餐厅到《2046》的金
 作为最道地、最草根的饮食场所,茶餐厅早
位的,分别是菠萝 油(一种面包)和鸳鸯(一
 How did this all come about?
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:
 The décor – the New York Jewish delicatessen
 From "New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social
Construction of an Ethnic Pattern" by Gaye Tuchman
and Harry G. Levine. Contemporary Ethnography.
1992: Vol 22 No 3. pp. 382-407.
 “Jews also appear to have been less attached to their
food specialties than Italians were to theirs.…American
Jews have never evolved what we might call a fancy
tablecloth style of restaurant serving Eastern European
food. The gourmet delicatessen with formica tables -New York's Carnegie Deli, for example -- likely
represents the pinnacle of the American Jewish ethnic
The Evolution of Hong Kong茶餐厅:
 Cultural bricolage – everyday inventiveness,
adapting quickly to the cultural context.
 Where in Hong Kong did 茶餐厅 first
appeared in Hong Kong?
 What is 丝袜奶茶 made of ?
 Diversion - to study the rules of the game so
well that one can manipulate it to one’s own
advantage. The cunning of the weak.
 Poaching - to turn the unjust system and
hierarchy to one’s own purpose.
Hong Kong Everyday language: crosscultural, traveling language
– linguistic bricolage
 「夜冷」,「摆夜冷」
 A Chinese historian said it might have come from Song
dynasty when rich good for nothing sons needed to sell
off the family’s treasures but were too ashamed to do it
in daytime. However, he cannot show any proof.
Should we believe him?
 A more interesting discovery: in Herbert A. Giles, A
glossary of Reference on Subjects Connected with the
Far East (1866):
 In Portuguese「Leilao」,
 meaning “auction” in English,
 Becomes “lelang” in Malay, meaning 「叫卖」&「拍
 becomes 「口黎 口蘭 」in 汕头语,
 「夜冷 」 (音 ye lang) in Cantonese.
Hong Kong Everyday language: crosscultural, traveling language
– linguistic bricolage
– Cantonese for 「苦力」
 Herbert A. Giles : entry on “coolie”. His elaboration:
 Lowly servants and manual labor. Origins:
 (1) Kholees or kolis in India. This is the way the people
in the Southern metropolitan centres call the lowly
ratroots people (servant) from the North.
 (2) Kuli in Tamil, meaning slave (Tamil - a
marginalized but very populated people/ethnic group in
 (3) 「苦力」in Chinese: lowly work is a mixture of
bitterness and strength. As adjective. Coolie Chinese as
opposed to soldier boss, as coolie orange is opposed to
mandarin orange.
 口古 口厘
F. The case of 天臺屋居民運動:
 This story exposes the hidden agenda of the story :
Three Little Pigs as it is rewritten from folklore into
17th & 18th century French “Children’s literature”
during the age of industrial revolution, capitalism &
 Fairy tales are the civilizing mission of colonization
from within, since the time you were small.
 The most current version of The Three Little Pigs used
by educators is the one that put the blame on the
laziness of the first two little pigs, and the diligence and
wittiness of the third. What are lost in this version of the
tale are the alternative possibilities of the tale that goes
beyond the Protestant work ethic.
The rooftop dwellers’ struggle for living
and housing conditions in Hong Kong
since the winter of 1994:
 Rooftop dwellers are the poor and the immigrants.
They built their homes, or live in homes built on
the rooftops Hong Kong's high rise. Why?
 These rooftop dwellings are largely cement built
and permanent, much more comfortable, safe and
conveniently situated than most temporary
housings that the government can offer, in terms of
structural safety, size, crime rate and infrastructure.
 There are over 12,000 rooftop dwellings on over
4,500 buildings in Hong Kong and there are at
least over 80,000 people living is such conditions.
Rooftop dwellings is not an accidental
happening, but the result of policies &
conditions of living in Hong Kong:
 Post war Hong Kong prospers through minimalizing
welfare as well as exploiting land resources.
 Rooftop dwellings, hillside squatters and cage homes
are all grass-root self-reliance in solving their own
housing problems in face of government reluctance to
provide permanent public housing.
 The government's muted tolerance of such in the past at
least 30 years before the demolitions in 1995 clearly
demonstrates its intention to withhold as much as
possible, resources from grass-root housing. There are
over 150,000 entries waiting for a public rental home at
that time.
Structural, spatial exploitation of
the poor & the immigrant:
 Governmental policies also allow Hong Kong to top the
world in land prices. The government's shift towards the
inflation and re-appropriation of crown and private land
as its main source of income has irretrievably triggered
this process, leaving grass-root people with no
alternatives for shelter than the ones they have already
invented for themselves.
 The government decides to demolish rooftop dwelling
over 85 strategically chosen buildings in 1994 due to an
agreement with the Chinese government to redevelop
old districts into financial zones, which is of course,
welcomed by transnational and local developers and
multi-national lending corporations.
Structural exploitation blamed on
the victim:
 The government also profit from the rates and the
property taxes levied on rooftop dwellings, giving an
impression that they are “legal.”
 By 2003, they have demolished over 1340 rooftop
homes. They intend to complete the demolition on top
of 4,500 buildings by 2007. It has nothing to do with
improving grass-root housing conditions, though. On
the contrary, due to loopholes between the laws and
arbitrary and uncoordinated government policies, the
apathetic government has driven rooftop dwellers to
desperation, while leaving the owners, lawyers and
agents who built and sold these properties alone.
Urban renewal, raising profitability
of properties, demolitions: the
rooftop Migrants turned Nomads:
 Rooftop dwellers and temporary housing residents too,
are driven to many years of migrant hardships, with
the threat that one will end up in one of those
temporary housings that are not targeted for
demolition and public housing relocation.
 Temporary housing is not made for long term
residence, yet many people are forced to live under
those stressed conditions for many years. Nonetheless,
some temporary housing residents cynically celebrated
their 12th year or more at a place called temporary.
 Rooftop dwellers, many of whom are and were new
immigrants, are again uprooted and forced into
migrancy, who are not offered the opportunity to settle
down, however much they want and try to.
The Migrants turned Nomads:
 A migrant has no place of her own that is not already
dominated by the resident society in the first place. Uprooted,
she loses her place, with all her invested webs of affections,
socio-cultural relations and resources, all crucial to grassroot subsistence.
 Rooftop dwellers, forced from their homes into desperate
migration in the city as street fighters, however, transforms
this imposed desperation into a form of resistance.
 They transform in a sense, from migrants into nomads, who
take migration as an way of living. These nomads, in a
gesture of cynical abandonment, throw away all
internalizations and illusions about the state to positively
adopt and appropriate nomadic life itself, a manner of being
absolutely exterior to the state logic.
The Migrants turned Nomads:
 This is not a romantic theoretical fancy that people will
adopt lightly, simply for experiment's sake, as it is
common knowledge that nomads fare miserably under
our kinds of regime: we will go to any lengths to settle
them, and they barely have enough to subsist on.
 The Bedouin nomads are denied their abode by the
Israeli state, which takes their land away from them,
literally throw them into the rubbish dump not far away,
so as to build Israeli settlement colonies on the place
now called West Bank.
 Some of the rooftop protesters are out of work for a
long while. No political idealism could persuade
somebody to do so, if it is not the to-be nomad's own
desire and decision.
Spatial resistance of the nomads in
the city: 上街, 靜坐, 遊行, 示威
 Up on the top plateau of the city-scape, and down at the
plateaus of the city's transits and passageways, the
nomad occupies, inhabits, holds that space, live and
grow and vibrate with the intensity of their desiring,
anger and warring spirit.
 State history has always learned from the nomads the
machineries of war (guerrilla warfare) and appropriate
its energy into the apparatuses of the state. The state has
many ways of making street fighters into legislators,
protesters into the receptionist of protests, divide and
run them and make them control and exploit each other.
Spatial resistance of the nomads in
the city &
the micro-technologies of control:
 Whenever different people come together
despite their differences for a singular purpose,
tanks, the military, the police et cetera, will
soon be rolling in, whether it be the public
space called 天安門, 花園道, 街巿街, 荔枝角
道 or 彌敦道, irrespective of the scale of the
 The state wants to deter people from boring
into the public nature of their problems, from
making boring take-place and vibrate with
Nomadic Temporal Tactic of boring:
 Idleness to rooftop dwellers driven out of work by the
heavy demand of time and energy in this process of
struggle has been transformed from a state of lack into a
process of unobstructed desire, a resistance that poaches
time from the state.
 The intense form of activity in this boring is very
exhaustive, and the maintaining of high intensity that is
nomadology wears people out. Yet for as long as it is
bearable, the warring spirit of subversive activities and
outright anger in turn revitalizes the participants from
the otherwise frustrating encounters with disciplining,
rejections, refusals, intimidations, betrayals.
Nomadic Spatial Tactics:
 A struggle for living space denied by the state is necessarily
a territorial & spatial warfare. Oppositional politics would
obviously lose out as rooftop dwellers have literally no
grounds to oppose from in the first place. One side is also
overwhelmingly more powerful.
 It requires therefore a tactic of appropriation, of challenging,
pushing the state's control over normative public territories
to their limits, to take them literally to the point of absurdity
& novelty, opening up such definitions of space.
 The demonstrators detach such spaces from their habitual
use so as to appropriate the public space for their own
production of critical social meanings.
 The point is not to oppose conquest with conquest, but to
expose, to demonstrate the absurd violence of the state's
conquest of their living space.
A war of representation between
unequal parties:
 This persistent and continuous everyday struggle for
living space & survival, this resistance against (mal)administration will be silenced by the ruler’s
discourses of absorption or accommodation.
 Since what the rooftop dwellers demand is the simple
spatial entitlement to a permanent rented piece of public
property they can make into a home, like what other
hijackers of crown colony (hill side squatters etc.) are
entitled to,
 so one tactic is that so long as this is denied, so long as
the state invades and denies them a private space, they
make any public space whatsoever, a possible
permanent home---nomadic pure and simple.
Nomadic spatial tactics:
 Nomadic space has no boundaries and is
everywhere. If the busiest street in Kowloon
is a space of transience, the rooftop dwellers
make Nathan Road home, at the juncture of
a bank, a supermarket, a school, a
McDonald's, right opposite the Prince
Station of the Mass Transit Railway---in
short, a juncture of the major institutions of
city life.
The hidden agenda behind the Three
Little Pigs fable – the war over time,
space memory and representation:
 Everybody wants a permanent, safe, comfortable house
of brick, if they can afford it. They cannot, not because
they are lazy, they actually work very hard, but because
Big Bad Wolf eats up the land and inflate them as real
estate, reclaim others' living space as corporate and
public property, prevent others from building their own
homes and blow up the rest of the abodes they are able
to come up with, so that price inflating real estate
properties can be built on that very same piece of land
that the little pigs have always lived on, for centuries,
millennia even. Like the Bedouin nomads or the
rooftop dwellers.
The materiality of the fable has to be
changed in our present reversed folk
rewriting : from brick to wood
 The rooftop little pigs started off with diligently built
cement & brick houses on rooftops. Or they bought
them or rented them through hard work & thrifty
 The big bad wolf came, more forceful than the tale
would like to admit, with private developers' legal and
physical threats and bullying, with state police &
institutional powers of intimidation & the simulating
technology of a hegemonic mainstream information &
news industry.
 The houses of brick were easily demolished. And they
huffed, and they puffed and they blew the house in.
The materiality of the fable was totally
reversed---from bricks to wood to straw
 The rooftop dwellers turned street sleeping
demonstrators built some houses of wood on the busy
streets of Mongkok. 陳菊芳(Mrs. Ho) attentively sets
up an altar for the gods and says to herself "钉实口的,
口吾好俾佢口地 拆". Outside the lime light of
broadcasting cameras, she hammers, murmuring to
herself,"好靓喔个屋企!" Like her, every participant
affectively signed their names on the walls, redefining &
transforming the public space into their communal space
of belonging. In the streets they lived, for weeks.
 When this too was demolished, when the police huffed
& puffed and blow the house in, the street dwellers
moved to the Mongkok Railway Station & lived on
canvas-straw tents. From brick to wood to straw.
Invading & occupying public space &
wasting the time of the state
 If officials fail to grant a hearing, they become a
monumental capacity for waiting. They colonize
another piece of crown colony, the housing department
conference room.
 Exceedingly politely, they transform the room into a
guerrilla base, bringing food, water, walkie-talkies,
blankets, mobile phones, video-cameras, battery
chargers, cigarettes, playing cards, newspaper, radio.
 Boring away, days on end, preferring this airconditioned public space to the streets in summer. They
negotiated the space so politely, that physical police
violence will turn out in their favor before the camera.
War of representation:
 In this war of media representation, the police forced
the burden of intimidation onto the security guards,
choosing the oldest, weakest possible ones. This is a
long war of time, space & representation. It is about
the power to appropriate narratives, images &
representations in one's favor. Through the aggregation
of more resources, more of everything, the state
temporarily succeeds in containing them and forcing
them into temporary housing---another form of houses
of wood.
 There, they will have to wait or fight, for better or for
worse, with not much hope, for public housing
resettlement, the final house of brick again, that which
they started off living in, in the first place.
G. Hawkers 街头小贩:
Poverty & unemployment is not the
only or most accurate explanation:
 Why is the number of street hawkers increasing even
as Hong Kong’s economy was growing in the 1980s &
employment rate was highest ever?
 Why a factory worker and a high school dropout
become hawkers? Be one’s own boss. The refusal of
the disciplinary and exploitative space of work &
 It is not just an alternative to shopping malls. It lives
on the success of shopping malls, trying to encroach
the spaces nearest the centers of business/busy-ness.
Why control & persecute the street
hawkers? Since 1845…
 The symbiotic relation between the 小贩 & the 小贩
管理队, later renamed the 一般事务管理队
(Hawker Control Task Force of the Environmental
Hygiene Administration Division).
 有牌小贩 – 行业老化 - 营生策略
 The technologies of Fruit hawkers 生果车,cooked
food hawkers 小吃车,clothes & accessories hawkers
 Micro-politics of control - stigmatization, labeling,
temporal-spatial disciplining, policy
 Micro-politics of resistance – niche negotiation,
appropriation, bricolage, poaching

SOSC 111 - Science Technology and Society