From Endangerment to Ferality: Revisiting the Cultural Imagination of Hong Kong via Animal Tropes

25 Feb 2022 10.00 AM - 12.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
TING Chun Chun

Speaker: Winnie L. M. Yee, Department of Comparative Literature, Hong Kong University

Discussant: Helena Wu, Department of Asian Studies, The University of British Columbia

In response to the resurgence of wild boars in the city of Hong Kong in November 2021, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department decided to resume culling to control their proliferation. Animal rights groups and many members of the general public spoke out against the practice, arguing that the possibility of cohabitation with the non-human “other” should be explored. My talk examines the position wild boars, and wild animals in general, have occupied in Hong Kong’s cultural imaginary before and after the handover. With references to Tim Choy’s notion of endangerment and Anna Tsing’s concept of ferality, I will explore the transformations undergone by wild animals in the process of becoming city dwellers and their connection to the changes that have occurred as a result of infrastructure building projects in Hong Kong. The radical changes brought about by urban development and increased infrastructure demand a rigorous reimagination of the city’s identity and the plight of wild animals. The measures taken before 1997 to preserve endangered species that are unique to Hong Kong’s history and hence her identity have now been replaced by initiatives to care for wild boars who are in the process of adapting to human infrastructures. This shift in cultural discourse is emblematic of the re-imagination of Hong Kong culture, which is no longer intent on preserving uniqueness but embraces heterogeneity. Using short stories and documentaries about wild animals as examples, I argue for the need to embrace the feral dynamics of an Anthropocene that extends beyond humans and a new Hong Kong identity.

Winnie L. M. Yee is program coordinator of the MA Program in Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Hong Kong. In 2019–20 she is a fellow in Rachel Carson Center for the Environment and Society at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Her research interests are ecocriticism, Hong Kong culture, contemporary Chinese literature and film, and independent cinema. She is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between ecopoetics and Chinese literature and independent film scene. Her works have appeared in Cultural Studies, PRISM, Journal of Asian Cinema, Communication and the Public, among other places.