Eric Ma

Department of Communication Studies
Chinese University of Hong Kong

"LazyMuthaFucka: Emotional Energy and Subcultural Politics"

This paper is a small part of an ethnographic study which tries to capture the moment of post-97 subcultural formation in Hong Kong. Since 1998, local underground bands have been surfacing up as alternative lifestyle options for teenagers. Their oppositional noises can be heard in mini concerts, self-financed CDs, TV commercials, and commercialized alternative music labels. Highly critical to mainstream middle-class ideologies, these bands and their music serve as symbolic resources for cultural differentiation and discursive sites of popular resistance. Yet they are quickly absorbed by consumerist discourses to a point in which their resistive postures seem to be on the edge of being vaporized into fashionable lifestyle commodities. These discursive processes have been embodied in graffiti, clothing, accessories, tattoos, foul language, band rooms’ decorations, spatial configurations, bodily performances and subversive rituals. The present paper will provide a visual presentation of this underground empire of subcultural signs and an ethnographic analysis of the lifeworlds in which these signs are embedded.

In the colonial years, subcultural energies had been absorbed by Hong Kong’s upward mobile economy and non-interventionist polity. Without the productive discipline of a dominant high culture, Hong Kong’s post-war cultural formation had arguably been a process of mainstreaming different subcultural forms to become a secular and energetic local culture. These contextual factors have been undergoing gradual changes since the sovereignty reversion in1997. The discourses of re-nationalization, downward mobility, failed market economy, and weak local governance may have contributed to the post-97 subcultural formation in which the intertextual web of band culture is one of the most conspicuous displays.

Draft of Conference Paper

UCLA Asia Institute
UCLA International