Genre Reconfiguration and Cultural Production: The Making of Critical Biographies in China, 1902–1919

Project: Research

View graph of relations


Hong Kong has long been considered a consumer society. However, unprecedented and months-long socio-political unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic, and sociopolitical uncertainty have been disrupting daily life in the city since mid-2019. Research on Hong Kongers’ mental health found a high prevalence of probable depression and suspected post-traumatic stress disorder during the 2019-20 social unrest (Ni and others, 2020: 279). Surveys during the pandemic also found that the material and media consumption behaviour of home-bound consumers has changed, but these quantitative data did not provide deeper insights. How do Hong Kongers consume to ameliorate the multiple stresses they are currently experiencing? How do consumption of media, goods and services help support their inner stability, sense of self, and group identity in times of crisis?Recent consumption research finds that consumption is not atomistic but relationally embedded (Wong and Hogg, 2013); consumption practices aid identity work and mediate consumers’ fictional and real individual/collective fantasies (Beruchashvili and Moisio, 2013) supported by cultural ideologies (Arnould and Thompson, 2005). When consumers face threats to their identity, they consume products that support the restoration of their perceived identity and fight against threats (Cutright, Samper and Fitzsimons, 2013). Consumption evokes emotions (Illouz, 2009), and research on media consumption finds that consumers deliberately “self-medicate” using media consumption (Radway, 1984; Stacey, 1994). Object-consumer reciprocal networks help consumers reflect, restore, and create their identity (Belk, 1988; Price, 2013). Locally, research finds that Hong Kongers’ consumption activities have increasingly been politicised since the 2019 movement (Wang and others, 2019; Chan and Pun, 2020) and are closely linked with identity (Pang, 2021). However, the literature on consumption has scarcely discussed the emotional dimension of consumers’ identities—what are the relations among consumption, consumers’ identity pursuits, emotions and cultural ideologies? How do object-consumer networks via consumption practices help ameliorate the multiple stresses that Hong Kongers are currentlyexperiencing?The primary purpose of this research is to address this gap in our knowledge of changes in consumer behaviour, emotions and identity pursuits in Hong Kong made in response to the fourfold stressors of social unrest, political anxiety, a staggering local economy, and a global pandemic. By appropriating dialogic self theory (DST) and ‘object-practice-identity network’ (Price, 2013) from Actor network theory (ANT), this research proposes a new framework to address this knowledge gap. Through interviews, netography, media diaries, qualitative clustering, mapping and participant observation, this visual ethnographic project proposes to document Hong Kongers’ changing consumption activities, explore the multidimensional meanings and emotions of these activities, examine how the media/goods/services-practices-identity consumption network articulates the emotional dimensions of Hong Kongers’ identity pursuits.This project will contribute to two fields of study: consumption studies and Hong Kong studies. First, Hong Kong as a case study offers the opportunity to analyse a dramatic shift in consumption patterns in crisis as opposed to relative stability before 2019, and consumption patterns in relation to socio-political uncertainty and emotional distress. Second, through the lens of ‘consumerism’, we explore Hong Kongers’ emotional identity projects in times of crisis. Besides conferences and publications, an interactive website and public presentations will be used to disseminate the results beyond peer scholars. As the research participants will be recruited from diverse backgrounds (age, gender, marital status, and education) and political spectrum, website visitors will engage with different consumption stories. They will be encouraged to recognise the sociocultural anxieties of different Hong Kongers, build mutual understanding in the high times of crisis, and recognise relations among consumption, emotions and identities.


Project number9043447
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/2331/07/23