Academic Work

“The Tale of Mong Kok: 

 Ontological Separation in Hong Kong’s Imagined Green Space” 

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Paper presented at the CUC-NCA Conference on Communication, Media, and Governance in the Age of Communication, Beijing, China, June, 2018.



In this essay, I investigate Green Mong Kok: An Umbrella Revolution-inspired architectural blueprint for an environmentally friendly and democratic space in Hong Kong. I analyze the volumetric properties of Green Mong Kok (that is, the length, width, and height) and, in doing so, argue that the use of material, nature, space, movement, and culture acts as a form of social control and governmentality that maintains and, in fact, exacerbates the deep class and socioeconomic disparities in Hong Kong. Instead of promoting a sense of ontological belongingness through the design of an environmentally friendly space that harnesses visions of connection, latent architectural ideology, I posit, rematerializes class distinction through the intertwining of the social production and social production of space and, in doing so, invites a sense of ontological separation that maintains the status quo and current way of living in Hong Kong and reinforces homophilic sociability.

“Everyone Could be Batman:

The Function of Superheroes in Protest.”

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Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association Convention, Dallas, TX, November 2017. 




Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution was nine-days old when “five masked men” unfurled a banner over a bridge that leads from the Hong Kong government headquarters to the city’s Pacific Place shopping mall.1 Spray-painted in black above the recognizable shape of a faceless bat, the sign stated: “Everyone Could be Batman.

In this essay, I explore Batman’s long-standing relationship with the city of Hong Kong through on-screen texts (the 2008 Academy Award–winning movie The Dark Knight) and non-screen texts (comic books, logos, McDonald’s burgers, and protest signs) and investigate how and why Batman’s ideology resonates so intensely with Hong Kongers. I explore the global phenomenon and universal appeal of superheroes as cultural texts and draw on previous research focusing on the prominent and increasing use of comic book characters in times of unrest, including the growing salience of Hong Kong’s appropriation of superheroes. I argue that Hong Kongers appropriation and excorporation of Batman’s ideology is rooted in my assertion that the relationship between Batman and the Joker acts as an allegory for Hong Kong’s complicated and often fractious relationship with mainland China

To further this claim, I turn to the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight, and posit that the notion of the mainlandization of Hong Kong and Hong Kongers’ motivations for the Umbrella Revolution are visible in The Dark Knight, as well as throughout the Batman story in general.5 Finally, I turn to the analysis of a number of the visual elements of the Umbrella Revolution and argue that they mirror a number of tactics and tools used within the Batman narrative. I explore how these quotidian uses of Batman’s iconography and narrative aided in the communication of Hong Kong’s plight for genuine universal suffrage.

“The Umbrella Revolution:

Hong Kong’s Resistance Through the Politicization of Daily Life.” 

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Paper presented to the Rhetoric and Public Address Division of the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association convention, San Diego, CA, February, 2016.



In the summer of 2014, one of the world’s most orderly and dynamic cities became a battle zone. Overnight, the humble umbrella—one of the ubiquitous aspects of everyday life in Hong Kong—was transformed into a symbol of defiance and solidarity. This paper traces the origins of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and analyzes how the increasing grip of “mainlandization” led Hong Kongers to turn to an unusual form of resistance by politicizing everyday cultural objects. The rhetoric of these objects is analyzed in order to theorize how Hong Kongers embraced innovative methods of protest. The paper also explores the possibilities for the Umbrella Revolution’s iconic artwork and images to develop into what Hariman and Lucaites (2007) describe as forms of visual eloquence that transform the banal and disruptive to act as signposts for public memory that can “bear witness to something that exceeds words” (p. 3).



Hariman, R., & Lucaites, J. L. (2007). No caption needed. Iconic photographs, public

culture, and liberal democracy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Romancing the Chinese Identity:

Rhetorical Strategies Used to Facilitate Identification in the Handover of Hong Kong.”

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Published in Foss, S. K. (2016). Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice, 5th ed., Long Grove, IL: Waveland.


Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western States Communication Association, Spokane, WA, February, 2015. Received Top Student Paper Award.



In this paper, I analyze the speech of the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong to China in 1997 to discover how Jiang attempted to entice the citizens of Hong Kong to adopt a Chinese identity. My analysis led to the development of a schema comprised of four tenets that form a communication strategy for the adoption of a new national identity following the narrative of a romantic relationship. I propose that this strategy may be used to facilitate the engagement of national identity in times of conflict and uncertainty in the future.