East Asian Regional Conference in Alternative Geography

6-8 December, 2016
Report by Wing Shing Tang

Thanks to the sponsorship of Human Geography, the 8th Meeting of East Asian Regional Conference in Alternative Geography (EARCAG) was successfully held at the Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, between 6th and 8th December, 2016. There were more than 90 papers across the world (including Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Greece, Australia, Canada, Turkey, USA, Singapore, Malaysia and India) addressing the theme of ‘Radicalism in Theory and Practice’.

Since its inauguration in Kyungju and Taegu, South Korea, in January, 1999, EARCAG has been a forum for concerned people in East Asia to interrogate local issues roughly once every two years. Realising that we are living in an interconnected world, EARCAG has always welcomed scholars across the world to join the debates, exchanging views on the latest developments.

The conference set the scene of debates by inviting Andy Merrifield to speak on “The shadow citizenship and planetary urbanisation” from the spatial perspective, elaborating the mushrooming of democratic citizenship across the world. In his talk entitled “Developing or under-developing? Chinese New Left confronts ‘critical third-worldism’”, Dic Lo, from SOAS, enlightened the audience on China New Left’s view on the world and China. Finally, zooming in the local scale, Wing-sang Law, from Lingnan University, gave the audience a synoptic view on the developments of radicalism in Hong Kong in his talk “The trajectories of radicalism in Hong Kong”.

With the background on the debates between the Euro-American-informed Left and the China New Left and between the latter and the Hong Kong Left all set, the conference participants enthusiastically and provocatively exchanged views on various aspects of activism and movements across the world. There were debates about reclaiming the public space, student activism, land politics, the role of design in social movement, urban modernity, place image, archiving social movement and ‘cities of hope’. Most relevant of all, given the venue of the conference, were sessions discussing various aspects of social activism in Hong Kong relating to the Umbrella Movements. These sessions managed to elicit observations on the subtleties of activisms in Hong Kong which have never been discussed elsewhere.

In sum, the clear message from the exchanges and debates in the conference was to reject the coinage of social activism across the world in some kinds of argument like ‘variegated neo-liberalisms’. The world consists of many inter-connected parts. Accordingly, activism and social movements in East Asia would have their emergence both rooted in the region and interrelated with the world. This is the message that the EARCAG conference would like to share with the world.

For more information, one may consult the following website: http://geog.hkbu.edu.hk/earcag/