Reclaiming Hong Kong through neighbourhood-making: A study of the 2019 Anti-ELAB movement

Yao Tai Li*, Katherine Whitworth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Set in the context of the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) protest movement in Hong Kong, this study focuses on selected material and social appropriations of space including community-focused events held in shopping malls, the establishment of networks connecting consumers to suppliers with like-minded political values, and human chains. Drawing on popular concepts such as scale, network and place-frames found in the literature on contentious politics, we argue that the place-making practices observed during the period of study became claim-making practices that effectively framed movement aims and projected movement claims beyond the neighbourhood scale into a dynamic contestation at the city and national scales. Adopting key elements of neighbourhood as defined by Jenks and Dempsey, we highlight that the socio-spatial practices of the Anti-ELAB protests not only re-cast city spaces into neighbourhood spaces but also redefined traditional understandings of neighbourhood as a socio-spatial construct. We argue that during the Anti-ELAB movement an ‘ideological neighbourhood’ emerged in which spatial relationality is not borne out through physical proximity. Instead, connections between functional and social units were established through ideological affinity. These new connections and the replication of neighbourhood-based practices reinforced the construction of a socially and politically distinct Hong Kong identity. We extend the literatures on contentious politics and urban sociology by showing that the ideology and the imaginaries of movement participants can become spatially manifest and thus defensible in the physical world through new territorialities such as the neighbourhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1372-1388
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anti-ELAB movement
  • Hong Kong
  • ideological neighbourhood
  • neighbourhood making
  • urban social movement


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