In October the principal of Hong Kong’s Shung Tak Catholic English College posted an open letter opposing Occupy Central protests, which was widely circulated and discussed on social media in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The letter asked, “Who will reap the greatest benefits if Hong Kong becomes chaotic? Who will reap the greatest benefits if China becomes chaotic?”1 The principal, Kung Kwong Pui, then accused the United States government for stirring up trouble and destabilizing East Asia.
This was only one episode of an intense battle between the Occupy Central movement and counter-movement over whether western money and training had put protesters on the street. On the one hand, allegations were swirling on how Occupy Central was only a U.S.-financed plot against Beijing’s authority. On the other hand, the primary movement leaders, including Chan Kin-man and Joshua Wong, firmly denied such claim and repeatedly emphasized that umbrella protests were a domestic grassroots movement. Continue reading
The growing Umbrella Movement has come to an end. Alex Chow, general secretary and student leader from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), told the media that no further occupation will begin in the short term, but expressed the need to think about other types of movement tactics including general strike and class boycott after the occupy site was cleared in the first day. Continue reading
While the Umbrella Movement may ultimately prove lacking in results, it certainly has not lacked in drama. Part of that drama comes from the attempt to locate the Hong Kong protests into a broader legacy of social movements. The image of young Hong Kong students calling for expanded democratic rights drew immediate comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen protests and the “Occupy Central” part of the movement seemed a clear nod to the Occupy Movement in the United States. Both of these links reflect the transferable nature of protest legacies and the importance of legacy mobility for contemporary protests in China (and beyond). Yet protest legacies can mean very different things to activists and their targets, giving shape to how a movement is understood culturally and structurally, as well as how activists and state agents act. To illustrate this point, I will consider four movement legacies that serve as significant sources for the Umbrella Revolution and their implications for how the Hong Kong protests have unfolded. Continue reading
The editors of the Occupy the Future (2013, Boston Review), Stanford faculty David B. Grusky, Doug McAdam, Rob Reich, and Debra Satz, were involved in an Occupy teach-in at Stanford. Short versions of the essays were initially posted online as preparation for the teach-in, and contributors then expanded their essays for Occupy the Future. Building on the momentum of the Occupy movement, the book “offers a broader framework for understanding why rising inequality is the core problem of our time.” According to Rob Reich, contributors were asked to examine the cleavages between American values and practices. Chapters examine economic gender inequality (Shelley J. Correll), educational inequality (Sean F. Reardon), art and Occupy (Michele Elam and Jennifer DeVere Brody) and the language of social justice (H. Samy Alim), among others. Doug McAdam’s chapter looks to the future of Occupy. He argues that Occupy, in its present state, should not be called a social movement, but “in light of the economic and political stakes, this is a challenge worthy of our efforts.” For those of you who are interested in the persistence of Occupy and what top scholars in their fields have to say about it, you should certainly check it out.
Mobilizing Ideas essay also hosted an essay dialogue in January of 2012 on Occupy.
Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left (Duke University Press, 2013)
Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left, by Ash Amin and Nigel Thrift, isn’t exactly beach reading, but to those interested in a novel effort to link a wide range of political theory to practical politics, it is an interesting and (surprisingly—given the theoretical range it covers) engaging read. With apologies to Claude Levi-Strauss, this is the sort of book that is “good to think with,” especially for readers willing to use its engagement with political thought as a jumping off point for further reading or as a way to understand their own activism in a new way. That said, while this is a book about social movements, those looking for a direct engagement with what I would consider to be the main currents in social movement theory (both contemporary and historical) will be disappointed.
Amin and Thrift, at least in the United States, are probably best known to those working in what could loosely be considered “critical” urban geography. Continue reading