In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Maps and Mapping Practices in Postreunification Hong Kong
  • Elizabeth Ho (bio)

What is the work of mapmaking in Hong Kong, and how can it challenge the spatial and historical implications of the "post" in postreunification? How do various stakeholders across the territory use traditions of cartography to further their own political agenda? This article examines how experimental maps can help us understand the pressures on public space, political discontent, and constrained democracy in a city facing major transitions to new political economies and representations of cultural identity. In a city where all land is owned by the government and merely leased to developers and other tenants, maps become both a record of and a means to contest the contemporary forces of enclosure (Harvey 2013, 70–75) that curtail the meaningful production of public space. As democracy in Hong Kong is limited, to say the least, collective action has had to occur in everyday spaces beyond authorized protest routes and events. Maps mark these spaces of democratic participation and contestation and serve as manifestos of urban struggle. Maps and counter-maps in Hong Kong chart the gains and losses in the appropriation of public space and, as I will show, both "expose the geography of injustice" (Mitchell 2003, 30) as Don Mitchell has claimed and, in their appearance as pseudopublic art, impose new forms of authoritarianism and control. Maps are the product of the collision between "insurgent citizenships" (Holston 2009, 246) and the institutionalized forms of belonging of the "entrenched regime" (246) in Hong Kong, that can, more crucially, produce public space and "the public" by materializing the (utopian) communities they depict. At the same time, maps can consolidate and disrupt nationalist projects by restructuring the narratives in the shaping of national geobodies, an idea I return to at the end of this article. [End Page 103]

In what follows I examine a cluster of maps produced specifically around 2014, a watershed year in the history of Hong Kong protests and a defining moment in the period problematically designated as "postreunification." My focus on these particular maps—the commemorative map embedded in the plaza of HSBC headquarters in Central (the central business district), the maps generated by protesters at the three occupation sites, and the installation "Hong Kong Is Land" by the Hong Kong-based art platform, MAP Office—is driven by my attempt to understand the ley lines of power, the topography of inequality, and other "urban invisibles" (Amoroso 2010, xi), now made visible, that shape the urban environment of the city in which I live. Through their form, aesthetics, and tactical registers, these maps offer crucial insight into the narratives that dominated the city at this particular historical moment and exemplify how maps both delineate and become the protest space. Emerging from map worlds perceived to be in opposition, together these maps form a visual corpus of competing interpretations of an event as history is being made and space produced. I focus on the HSBC map and the specific Occupy maps because their adherence to and play on map conventions problematize the concept of counter-maps as reclaiming or "mapping back," and they provide an opportunity to think critically about the deployment of maps to exert narrative control over territory, in this case public space. My shift to MAP Office at the end of the paper offers a reading of how art maps illuminate another mode of contestation beyond public and protest maps/art. The context of the capitalist art world highlights the networks of power and co-optation that encircle new cartographic imaginations in Hong Kong even across the public sphere or protest arenas like those I am exploring. Assessing these interventions does not rest on imputing intention to any mapmakers, who whatever their goals cannot determine the reception of their creations in any case; rather, I analyze the narratives the maps themselves enable and remain sensitive to the fact that in a radically dynamic political landscape, the maps' audience, meanings, and interpretations necessarily change. None of these maps should be considered natural foils to one another, rather, this specific cluster of maps endeavor, however temporarily, to emplot the shifting political landscape of Hong Kong, where claims to...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 103-130
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.