Introduction: Affects in between Beginnings and Endings | Kwai-Cheung Lo

by Critical Asia

by Kwai-Cheung Lo, Dec. 2021】

Wild pigs have recently opened up a new site of contest/controversy between the Hong Kong government and the civil society. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department captured and killed seven wild boars at night in a low-density residential neighborhood by using bread as bait in the first catch-and-kill operation, after the government announced a week ago its reversal on the “trap, neuter, return” policy to “humanely euthanize” wild pigs that enter urban areas. It’s believed that the change of policy was motivated by an incident happened a week earlier that a wild boar knocked down a policeman and bit his leg, causing a deep wound. Wild pig is the most commonly seen wild animal in the city, and it is not a protected species. The extensive urbanization has driven the wild pigs accustomed to wandering in the city to look for food. The animal rights groups slammed the new culling operation as abhorrent, disgusting and bloody especially because the officers used bread as bait to lure the wild pigs from a hill nearby. The slaughter was considered as a major setback to the early progressive policy promoting the co-existence of human and wild life in the shared environment. 

After the imposition of the National Security Law in June 2020, most critical voices directed towards the government policies had been silenced. The wild pig controversy becomes a rare channel for the Hong Kong public to express their discontent and anger with the authorities without the threat of being charged of committing the security crimes. Though the wild pig controversy might have served as an emotional vent for Hong Kong people under the national security crackdown, there is a genuinely felt relationship of the citizens to their lived environment and the wild animals which share that environment in face of the climate change and unpredictability of life. The growing interest in nature, environment and wild life may imply a “rural turn” in Hong Kong cultural politics while the cityscapes and their symbolic meanings have been drastically reshaped and transformed by the forces larger than what the local community can master. Such shifting to the rural or to the ecology, i.e. the basics of life, probably is not merely a cognitive shift but bodily shift.

This special collection of essays is about the delicate and dizzying situation Hong Kong is undergoing right now. Contributors reflect in their different inquiry modes on whether the (post)colonial city is vanishing with the things and values many people believe they once know about, or it is setting out to describe everything from the beginning, in history. Perhaps, there is never any clean break from endings to beginnings, and vice versa. We see within all the essays an intentional or unintentional focus on affects (disaffection is indeed part of this affective system) as the foundational point of departure or arrival for their theoretical and critical approaches. It is not hard to understand our contributors’ concern when the objective circumstances became hard to change or even to be commented critically, the shift to subtle feeling and emotion functions as a reflective mode of inquiry attentive to implicit and elusive dimensions of one’s own experiences in the drastically changing world. Anguish, fear, loss and longing for possibilities that are no longer possible prevail. The strong feeling of incapacity to fix a problem that converges in one’s being but is way beyond it generates irresoluble uneasiness. Many of the contributors have talked about the 2019 protests with a covert acknowledgement of how they experience the feelings of failure. What is revealing is that the meanings of the events or objects they discuss are continually negotiated through their embodied practice or engagement rather than only attributed. It is the structures of feeling that condition the different realities in which we live. The lived experiences and the felt encounters with the environment, rather than some abstract notions, create windows of opportunity to have one’s actions achieve a desired outcome. Although “hope is a discipline,” as one contributor writes, hope can produce effects if it is more than a longing from an isolated individual. Most essays in this collection do offer hopes by highlighting the importance of the attunement between bodies and with the lived environment in order to generate connectivity through shared experiences and to seek the community’s resilience. Meanwhile, the significance of affective connections with others in the mutually shared moments would cultivate empathy and make the unbearable somewhat more livable.

Kwai-Cheung Lo, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

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