Announcement: Benedict Rowlett Awarded ECS Research Grant

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Benedict Rowlett has been awarded an Early Career Scheme research grant (HKD 273,178) from Hong Kong’s University Grant Council for his important and much-needed research project entitled “A Linguistic Landscape Study of the Gay Games in Hong Kong”. Huge congratulations!

Dr. Rowlett shares here on Agora about this research.

Mass-scale international events, e.g. festivals or sporting tournaments, temporarily take over their host cities. As such, these events often bring about material benefits in the form of increased visitor numbers and capital, along with symbolic and discursive changes, as host cities are rebranded as modern and attractive spaces/destinations. Language is integral to these spatial/discursive practices, as the ‘linguistic landscape’ (LL) of these events is shaped by various semiotic actions that not only promote but also redefine the places in which the event is held. 

This project focuses on the LL of an international sporting and cultural LGBT+ event, the Gay Games 11, that will take place in Hong Kong in 2022. As this is the first time that such a major LGBT+ event will be held in Asia, it is expected that the LL of the Games will be constructed via considerations of the local. That is, the Games, conceived in the West and defined by its core messages of modernity, e.g. inclusivity and diversity, will be redefined as it crosses into the more ‘traditional’ Hong Kong space; a local space which, like all spaces, is intimately linked to broader phenomena including discourse, identity, and politics. However, as above, this redefinition also brings with it the potential for transformation. In other words, ‘traditional’ or ‘fixed’ understandings of Hong Kong, its citizens, its communities and its identities, may be re-imagined through the Gay Games event and the emancipatory messages it brings. 

In order to investigate these potentials, and their effects on images of Hong Kong and Asia, I focus on the actions of those who construct and interact with the LL of the Games. Using a multi-sited ethnographic approach, I will track these actions across the LL from intersecting perspectives, engaging with both the organisers of the games and its participants/spectators, and drawing on data from both offline and online spaces. Experiential participation in the LL is key to this project, and so I operationalise a team-focused approach to data collection by working with a group of 10-15 student participants who will record their experiences of the LL collaboratively, using traditional and digital tools. Accordingly, the analysis will be conducted from these multiple and intersecting perspectives, allowing for in-depth insights into how the actions, brought about by this mass-scale queer event, may redefine the local, and foster a legacy of material and symbolic transformation in Hong Kong and beyond.

(Friday 2 July 2021)

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