My research theorises a “temporal nationalism” that defines contemporary Hong Kong identity discourse.
I situate Hong Kong as an ‘in-between space’, post-handover yet perpetually apprehending a future, which, in the 50 years of “no change”, never arrives, allows anxieties about Hong Kong’s future to fester. This uncertainty triggers a fixation on the ‘here and now’, reproduced linguistically and in the everyday consciousness.
Fixation on the present is a narrative trope shared across societal demographics, permeating literature, news media, and the research interviews I conducted with Hong Kong citizens in 2017. I argue that Hong Kong’s unique temporal moment both produces, and is reproduced by, a ‘collective imagination’, which Benedict Anderson argued is a ‘nation-building’ process.
This ‘here and now’ nationalism, however, encompasses two paradoxes of space and time, respectively:
Firstly, in an effort to preserve the ‘here’, Hong Kong writers and citizens focalise the unique international multi-culture that defines the space. However, by celebrating Hong Kong’s international commerce and tourism, and China/West liminality, the “local” becomes buried beneath fragments of “elsewhere”.
Secondly, Hong Kong citizens invest heavily in education and business, both practically and symbolically. However, whilst these investments are claimed as ‘forward looking’, they manifest as preoccupation with short-term attainment and immediate material procurement. In so doing, Hong Kong subjectivities become estranged from ideas of future ideological stability.
I conclude with a discussion of the development of my own creative methodology. Navigating these paradoxes, I self-critique tropes that compromise the Hong Kong identity, steering “temporal nationalism” towards a more Hong Kong-centric narrative.