Governing Desire in a Globalizing World: A Comparative Study of Youth in Hong Kong and Beijing

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    This project examines how the interlocking relationships between governing practices and global culture shape youth subjectivities in Beijing and Hong Kong. While the global economic recession has directed attention to the rising China, China itself faces mounting challenges of sustaining growth and a fast-growing ageing population. When China’s leader Xi Jinping speaks about the “Chinese Dream”, he specifically calls for the contribution of youth. China’s future relies heavily on its youth, who grow up in a prosperous China in which global culture is part of everyday life. Research into desires and aspirations of Chinese youth is scant, in particular when compared to the number of youth studies in the West. Also, China as an authoritarian state has confined Chinese youth studies largely within the political framework, overlooking the role of global culture in shaping the behaviour and aspirations of youth. This project addresses this lack by examining, first, how desire is incorporated in governing practices; second, how desire is enabled by global culture; and, third, how desire that is enabled by global culture directs acts of resistance. Acknowledging the significance of everyday life in cultivating desire and shaping one’s subjectivity, the PI grounds the study of desires on an empirical investigation of concrete but understudied food practices and home interiors – two daily necessities that are central to youth culture. Subjectivity refers to the ways that an individual comes to understand her/himself as a subject vis-à-vis the external world. Informed by Foucault’s governmentality, the term subject bears two connotations: the first refers to the processes whereby an individual is subject to control by social forces and the second refers to an individual as an autonomous being. By comparing youth in these two cities, the project investigates how different historical and social settings shape youth. Youth in Beijing, born after the Cultural Revolution, are mostly in single-child families; whereas, youth in Hong Kong have experienced major transitions brought by postcoloniality and the city’s retrocession to China. Recently, growing political tension and income disparity have sparked an outpouring of anger and frustration, making youth a pressing study subject. The research outputs, which include three academic articles, will 1/ bear political implications on the wellbeing of China; 2/ provide knowledge on how to inspire youth and have impact on youth-related policy; and 3/ theoretically, provide an empirical study of governmentality in a non-liberal setting and how globalisation works within the nexus of governmentality.
    Effective start/end date1/12/1530/11/17

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
    • SDG 4 - Quality Education
    • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
    • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
    • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
    • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production


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