Sonia Lam-Knott is a sociocultural and urban anthropologist, whose work addresses the interplay of politics, history, and space in contemporary Asian cities. Of particular interest are how citizens experience their past and present socio-political landscapes, along with their aspirations for the future.
She completed her DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford in 2015, with her thesis titled ‘The Protesting Youths of Hong Kong: Post-80s Reimaginings of Politics through Self, Body, and Space’. Based on 18 months of fieldwork in Hong Kong, this work examined why and how the current generation of young people in the city have mobilised, by first articulating their critiques towards existing political structures and state-society dynamics, and then by reviewing their multifaceted attempts to produce a novel political subjectivity in the city. It found that young people move away from collectivist modes of protest, and embrace creative cultural practices in expressing their political messages. These youths also expressed a nostalgic attachment to old urban neighbourhoods, which was used as a resource in their spatial experimentations towards envisioning an alternative reality.
These observations prompted her to pursue a project titled ‘The Politics of Nostalgia: Competing Historical Narratives in the Urban Heritage Practices of Postcolonial Hong Kong’ during her Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore (NUS), from 2017 until 2019. This project looked at government and civil society heritage initiatives, noting the different aesthetic practices they used to construct and convey historical narratives through the urban landscape. At NUS, she was also a co-investigator for an interdisciplinary research project that explored the heritage of Singapore’s Southern Islands using archival and ethnographic methods, which resulted with an academic workshop, museum exhibition, and heritage walking tour.
As a Research Affiliate, she will be working on a monograph titled Multiple Pasts in Hong Kong Museums, which will analyse changes to Hong Kong’s landscape of remembrance, and how narratives of the city’s past have been represented and interpreted, from the colonial to the postcolonial eras.
Asia, Hong Kong, postcolonial governance, representations of the past, nostalgia and memory, aesthetics, contested heritage, state-society relations, urban materiality, futurity
Articles and Chapters
- Lam-Knott, S. (2020). “Reclaiming Urban Narratives: Spatial Politics and Storytelling amongst Hong Kong Youths.” Space & Polity 24(1), 93-111. DOI: 10.1080/13562576.2019.1670052
- Lam-Knott, S. (2020). “Contesting Brandscapes in Hong Kong: Exploring Youth Activist Experiences of the Contemporary Consumerist Landscape.” Urban Studies 57(5), 1087-1104. DOI: 10.1177/0042098019829413
- Lam-Knott, S. (2019). “Responding to Hong Kong’s Political Crisis: Moralist Activism Amongst Youth Activists.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 20(3), 377-396. DOI: 10.1080/14649373.2019.1649016
- Lam-Knott, S. (2019). “Carving Enclaves of Alternative Urbanisms in Hong Kong: Ethnographic Examinations of Youth Spatial Experimentations.” In Enabling Urban Alternatives: Crises, Contestation, and Cooperation, edited by J.K. Fisker, L. Chiappini, L. Pugalis, and A. Bruzzese. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 223-246.
- Lam-Knott, S. (2018). “Defining Politics in an ‘Apolitical City’: An Ethnographic study of Hong Kong.” Anthropology Matters 18(1), 24-50.
- Lam-Knott, S. (2018). “Anti-Hierarchical Activism in Hong Kong: The Post-80s Youth.” Social Movement Studies 17(4), 464-470. DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2018.1427055
- Lam-Knott, S. (2017). “Understanding Protest ‘Violence’ in Hong Kong from the Youth Perspective.” Asian Anthropology 16(4), 279-298. DOI: 10.1080/1683478X.2017.1374622
- Lam-Knott, S. (2017). “Government and Language in Hong Kong.” In From a British to a Chinese Colony? Hong Kong Before and After the 1997 Handover, edited by G. Luk. Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California Berkeley, 77-111.
- Lam-Knott, S., C. Connolly, and K.C. Ho. (2019). (Eds.) Post-Politics and Civil Society in Asian Cities: Spaces of Depoliticisation. Routledge, Politics in Asia series.
- Lam-Knott, S. (2020). “Consuming the Past in Contemporary East Asia: An Introduction.” Journal of Intercultural Studies 41(3), 253-261. DOI: 10.1080/07256868.2020.1751603
- Lam-Knott, S. and Y. Cheng. (2020). “Introduction: Youth Politics in Urban Asia.” Space & Polity 24(1), 1-11. DOI: ps://doi.org/10.1080/13562576.2020.1732200
- Lam-Knott, S. (2020). “‘Populism’ in Hong Kong’s Contemporary Politics”. The Immanent Frame, 27 February.
- Lam-Knott, S. (2019). “Exploring the Aesthetics of Nostalgia in Contemporary Hong Kong.” Anthropology News, 15 February. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1093