Transnational anarchist digital networks: Japanese animation and civic imagination in political and cultural movements in Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


In this project I explore the relationship between Hong Kong political and cultural movements and Japanese animation since the introduction of “the Bill” in March 2019. I do this by combining the theoretical frameworks of transnational anarchism (Konishi, 2013a, 2013b, 2007) and civic imagination (Jenkins, Peters-Lazaro & Shresthova, 2020). The transnational anarchist approach focuses on the non-institutional cross-cultural networks between ordinary people who resist all kinds of hegemonies, unbound by ethnicity, class, gender, age and nationality. Anarchism invites us to notice new uses of digital media and social networks in cultural movements. Civic imagination – the capacity to imagine alternative realities – enables us to address the existing and new forms of civic activism and public participation through the use of popular culture in everyday practices and social exchange online and offline.

Popular visual culture has had an important role in the Hong Kong protests. A mixture of transnational popular references, from music to films and memes, helped the activists build a popular iconography in many different forms including videos and posters. Among these, particularly images and texts from Japanese animation have been used to communicate and exchange messages of resistance and challenge to the existing social order. I therefore interpret Japanese animation as a visual and linguistic network in the transnational civic anarchism of Hong Kong’s cultural movement.

Anarchism and civic imagination are situated among the various digital media and therefore I also look for them there – as composite parts of digital networks that are also social and cultural. To understand the complexity of the phenomenon with the focus on the users’ practices and mutual meaning-making, I deploy cultural anthropology, history, visual and cultural studies, and digital media and communication studies, assembled around science and technology studies (STS). STS enables me to conceive of Japanese animation as simultaneously a cultural and technological artifact; to ponder about the new mediations in the old kinds of political and social networks brought about by new digital technologies; and think about how communication in political participation and transnational cultural movements is reshaped through digitalisation. All these practices, media and mediations are ordinary: there is nothing spectacular about them and they themselves are based upon the existing ways of life. But I propose that the particular theoretical framework I am applying in this project might open up the ordinary to new interpretations, discovering new connections and connectivities, and offer new ways to study the ordinary.
Effective start/end date1/01/2231/12/24


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.