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In Session: Public Space through Gendered Perspectives: Part 1 Boundaries as Site of Resistance
1: To Mourn is To Protest: On Grief, Gender, and Politics in Hong Kong
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
For more than three months in late 2019, in the middle of the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong, a group of women created and maintained a public makeshift shrine outside a subway exit and a main police station. The shrine was devoted to the unknown victims of police brutality inside the subway station on August 31, 2019, and became a key site to congregate in a combined ritual of mourning and protesting. At its center was a group of middle-aged women – Buddhists, Catholics, and Christians – who were unified by their conviction that Hong Kong Police had killed young protestors. Their conviction was manifest in their daily rituals of folding paper offering, managing the public offerings of food, drinks, and flowers for the dead, hosting the sacrificial rites, and generally managing the shrine. The specific gender and age of this group allowed the protest to be embedded in the local religious ritual of mourning that took place right in front of the police station.
Grief is a powerful emotion and public memorializing plays an important role in giving rise to a politicized spirit (Kipnis 2019). In this paper, I demonstrate how this shrine and its continual maintenance were material expressions of public distrust and distaste for the Hong Kong administration and the Beijing government that it had come to represent. As such, I examine how mourning operated as a spatial practice and a political discourse circulating terror and congealing intimacy for Hongkongers in face of an increasingly oppressive regime.