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In Session: Critical Race in Asian Studies II: Performance, Visuality, and Beauty
2: “The Black Man’s Question Mark”: Representations of Africa in Social Media in Hong Kong
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
This paper studies the representations of Africa in social media in Hong Kong as well as its cultural significance. Demographically speaking, Africans are a minority in the city. According to the Hong Kong African Association, there were around 2,000 Africans living in Hong Kong as of 2018. However, images and narratives of Africa and Africans recur in social media such as Facebook and online forums (Golden and LIHKG) not only in the form of posts but also as Internet memes and Graphics Interchange Formats (GIF). Although some of these representations originate from western (social) media, most are localised with a stress on “African-ness.” The meme “The Curious Nick,” for example, is translated as “The Black Man’s Question Mark.” Despite the fact that stereotypical or even racist posts and comments on African people and cultures prevail in social media, there are moments when Hong Kong “netizens” demonstrate a sense of empathy. Nonetheless, these moments are very often when the local people think that they are in the same boat politically, socially, or culturally. A recent example is how the protests in Sudan went viral alongside with the anti-extradition protest in Hong Kong. In this regard, this paper argues that African people and cultures are often narrated in relation to Hong Kong’s and defined as the subordinate of the local in social media. By examining some of the most popular posts and memes, it suggests that this hierarchy not only predetermines but also crystalizes the local people’s understanding of the African continent.