Emotional politics: the exploration of an occupy movement in Hong Kong
thesisposted on 08.07.2021, 10:27 by King-sau Ng
This thesis aims to explore the scale, duration, and intensity of the Umbrella Movement, which emerged in Hong Kong in 2014. Drawing from 60 in-depth interviews and related documentary analysis, this qualitative study examines why the participants decided to join a social movement that was defined by the government as illegal and how the movement maintained participants’ commitment so as to make it the longest-running and most intensive pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong history.
The thesis demonstrates that collective identity functioned as a precondition explaining the large scale of participation. The study also showed that the occupied zone acted as a free space in constructing a new protest identity, which explained the participants’ intensive and long-lasting commitment in joining the movement. As a free space with culture and values opposed to the dominant ideology, the occupied zones generated emotional and relational transformative impacts on the participants, which led to the creation of a new protest identity. Their newly created collective identity transcended their diverse backgrounds, and they perceived the engagement as a pleasurable experience. This emotional benefit, together with the intensive interaction within the occupied zone, led to the formation of strong affective ties among the participants, which became an asset of the movement.
My study demonstrates how the collective identity formed captured the emotional and spatial dimensions. It also enriches the analysis of the Occupy movements. This thesis argues that historical and cultural understanding of the occupied zones is undermined in most Occupy movement studies. Though the Umbrella Movement chose a financial hub as an occupied area, the reason was not to express opposition to economic inequality. Instead, it showed resistance to the policy of economic unification brought by decolonization. This thesis offers a new lens in understanding the symbolic meaning of free space created during the Occupy movement.