The Crowd as Interruption: Politics of Invisibility and Protest Photography in the Anti-ELAB Movement in Hong Kong

Class Year


Access Type

Archival Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Media Studies Program

First Advisor

Giovanna Borradori

Second Advisor

Himadeep Muppidi


Since its invention, photography has played an important role in capturing and shaping understandings of social movements. In the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong, while many Western audiences have been emotionally moved by the media coverage of the movement, people in mainland China seem to remain “immobilized” and share the feelings of fear and anger. This thesis suggests that the hostile attitudes towards street politics and social movements in mainland China are not only caused by political ideology (i.e. Capitalism and Communism), but also by the imaginary of the public and the political crowd. Instead of only looking at photographs in this movement, I ask, how have the social imaginary of social movements and crowd politics in China influenced mainland audiences’ understandings and feelings of the movement? By studying the role of images in journalism, the imagery of ‘the crowd’ in Chinese recent history, the visual representation of the city of Hong Kong as a simulacrum, and the iconic photographs of the Anti-ELAB movement, I argue that the protest photographs shown to the mainland audience are interruptions of the narrative of national development, and have invoked memories of crowd politics during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. At the same time, by looking at protest images created by both Chinese and Western media, the thesis reveals the tension between the different frames of representations in social movements and their limitations in visualizing collective actions. In the end, I suggest looking for more complex imaginations and representations of the crowd in this interruptive juncture of global movements.

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