The Street Must Be Defended: Towards a Theory of Assembly on Hong Kong’s Avenida de la Revolución
From North Africa and the Middle East to Europe, the Americas, and East Asia, the social movements of the past decade have, without being in explicit dialogue with one another, resembled the same march into the public street. Despite the breadth of the cultural, political, and topographical variations in the spaces and places that these movements cover, even in a city like Hong Kong, where the development of urban space has taken a trajectory and assumed a quality of unique status, protest seems to march to the beat of the same drum in Hong Kong’s tropical, urban financial center as it does in St. Louis’ suburban neighborhoods. Why, despite the obvious differences from city-to- city and street-to-street, does protest seem to look the same across societies, cultures, and regimes?
This paper explores the theoretical matrix by which discourses of the street have emerged alongside the imperialisms of the nineteenth century to take inventory of the ways in which the street speaks and is spoken about in the city, in politics, in poetry and literature. While these discourses illuminate the coordinates and mediations in the implicit conception of the street, they only complement the very real emergence and mutations of urban space in Hong Kong in the twentieth century driven by finance capital. I chart the contours of the history of the street in Hong Kong and the ways of capturing the assemblies that have always taken place on it in a step towards understanding how social movement and political assembly can be made effective in contemporary urban space.
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