A city is more than the waves of verticals made of steel, concrete, and glass that form the architecture of our lives. Urban ethnography takes as its starting point the idea that it is the everyday human experience that defines the changing fabric of the city. Our Summer School will draw from the origins of a human-centered conception of urban space that contrasts with the economic mapping and political planning of the cityscape. With our speakers and participants, we want to position our observation of Hong Kong at “street-level” by following Certeau’s invitation to observe the practices that write within the text of the city. We will also borrow from the growing scholarship in visual anthropology and sensory research the instruments to rethink our research in the city. Together, we will ask ourselves: how should we make sense of the urban dimension of contemporary culture? How can we continue Baudelaire and Benjamin’s search to render their impressions of contemporary life in the city? What can the practice of urban ethnography tell us in the end of the effective production of space?
Our dialogues will be located in the most advanced scholarly discussions engaging with the polis from a variety of methods and perspectives. Through a series of collaborative workshops, team-based explorations and methodological trainings—between the classroom and the city—we want participants to engage with the possibilities of new methods. We hope for everyone to challenge their disciplinary habits. Following our empirical observations, teams will create a series of public multimedia presentations to document and share their ways of researching Hong Kong’s urban experience.
To make the most of our event, we want to turn the context of the Summer School into a site of inquiry. Cosmopolitan and conflictual space, Hong Kong provides us with the perfect living stage to test and update our methods of observation. With its urban density, high-velocity, social heterogeneity, Hong Kong presents a unique blend of traditional and hypermodern architectures. The specific field site will be unveiled during the second day of the Summer School. Our fieldwork will give rise to a variety of practices: ethnographic interventions, audio documentaries, visual and participatory experiments, etc.
Therefore, we have invited Hong Kong and International Ph.D. students from sociology and anthropology, media and visual studies, art/design and architecture, urban planning and policy-making, to join us from the 22nd to the 26th of August 2017 to inspire each other and receive guidance from leading scholars in urban studies and visual anthropology.
The Summer School was supported by the Postgraduate Students Conference Grant of the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong.