Floating Citizens: On Being 'Included-Out' in Hong Kong

Talk by John Nguyet Erni, Professor of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University

Floating Citizens: On Being 'Included-Out' in Hong Kong is the first of a series of talks and performances in the Mapping Asia programme series, and tackling the issue of "belonging" within the shifting boundaries of cultural and legal citizenship in modern day Hong Kong.

Many in Hong Kong have identified the city as "half-sovereign" or "conditionally sovereign," as the postcolonial condition has brought about new ruptures and shifting boundaries of citizenship in economic, cultural, and legal terms.  The work of understanding issues of belonging is still ongoing, and has in fact intensified in recent times. Increasingly, who qualifies as a citizen and where their sense of home is have become vital questions for two visible groups: the Chinese Mainlanders whose personal and cultural fortunes have been transformed by opportunities presented by the permeability of the city-border, and the foreign domestic helpers whose right of belonging has been caught in the discrimination of immigration laws. Prof. John Erni will explore how their fates are conjoined by what he calls the state of being "included-out," something produced by doctrines of citizenship rights as well as by forms of cultural racialism. Working through two landmark human rights cases concerning the right of abode for people caught in half-sovereignty—the 1999 case of Director of Immigration v. Chong Fung Yuen and the 2012 case of Vallejos v. Commission of Registration—he hopes to outline the political continuum of the "included-out" in Hong Kong's citizenship management regime.

Image: Photo taken in the late 1970s, 20 years before the handover of British Colonial Hong Kong to Mainland China.
Image: Photo taken in the late 1970s, 20 years before the handover of British Colonial Hong Kong to Mainland China.


John Nguyet Erni is Professor in the Department of Humanities & Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University, after having served as Chair of the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong (in 2010–2013).  He has published widely on Chinese consumption of transnational culture, critical public health, sexuality in media culture, youth popular consumption in Hong Kong and Asia, and human rights criticism.  His books include Understanding South Asian Minorities in Hong Kong (with Lisa Leung, 2014), Cultural Studies of Rights: Critical Articulations (2011), Internationalizing Cultural Studies: An Anthology (2005), Asian Media Studies: The Politics of Subjectivities (2005), and Unstable Frontiers: Technomedicine and the Cultural Politics of "Curing" AIDS (Minnesota, 1994). Currently, he is completing a book project on cultural rights.

Mapping Asia is an unfolding publication, exhibition, and programme series presented by Asia Art Archive, that explores multiple vantage points from which to consider Asia, looking beyond inherited boundaries, histories, and political and economic systems to entanglements and connections across time, sites, and geographies.