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navigating belonging: exploring settlement for south asians in hong kong through narratives and participatory photography


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About the Project 

The project asks what it means to belong, for people from South Asian backgrounds across generations in Hong Kong. Using linguistic and visual ethnography and co-production, the project addresses this question through the sociolinguistic study of narratives and through participatory photography. In so doing, it offers enhanced understanding of belonging and settlement to inform practice and policy.  

The project focuses on belonging in relation to integration, central to much critical scrutiny in Hong Kong and a concern in current debates about migration and citizenship worldwide. The often-overlooked ethnic diversity of Hong Kong highlights a longstanding presence of migrants and the descendants of migrants from South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Nepali) backgrounds. This project combines the study of language alongside arts practice to examine how new arrivals, long-term residents and those born in Hong Kong, are engaged in processes of belonging. That is, how are they dynamically constructing different, multiple belongings at a time when established notions of nationhood, and associated ideas of linguistic and cultural homogeneity, are being both reinforced and disputed.  

Some questions we hope to collaboratively unpack throughout these phases include, but are not limited to the following:  

  • How does belonging for South Asians of different generations emerge in and through narrative and photography? 

  • How can researchers, participants, a creative practitioner and a partner organization work together to develop innovative approaches to researching belonging? 

  • How do new understandings of belonging challenge and contribute to policy, practice and public debate in social integration and inclusion? 


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Research Output 

The project's research outputs include an online website wherein the digital stories co-created with participants and the research team would be presented, a physical exhibition, and a research report which would be launched at an end-of-project symposium. Participants will be mainly involved in the following three phases of our project: 


1 | PhotoVoice Workshops 

Throughout these workshops, participants will carry out collaborative photography with project partners, the visual artist and researchers. With support from the visual artist, participants will take photographs relating to their experiences of belonging. In the workshops they will describe these and relate them to their developing understanding of belonging in structured and informal discussions with the project team. 


2 | Digital Storytelling Workshops 

The second phase involves participants – supported by the visual artists and the researchers – working on photographs generated during the creative process. These will be brought together in a series of digital stories to be displayed online on the project website. The digital stories will comprise the public-facing visual record of the research.  


3 | Public Engagement 

The final phase comprises public engagement activities. An exhibition of photographs and texts from narratives generated throughout the workshops will be prepared and staged at an appropriate site, for a broad public audience, with the support of a community arts institution.

A report from the project will be co-written and co-produced by the research team and the partner organization, for a public and policy readership. An end-of-project symposium with an audience of academic, public policy, arts and support organisation stakeholders will be held in conjunction with the exhibition and the launch of the report.