Publication details [#61005]

Bhatia, Aditi. 2016. Discursive construction of the ‘key’ moment in the Umbrella Movement. Journal of Language and Politics 15 (5) : 549–566.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


A mass civil disobedience movement brought Hong Kong’s key business and commercial districts to a standstill in September 2014 when low-key class boycotts coalesced into a wide-scale social movement propelled by thousands of people who flocked to the support of student protestors after an ‘unwarranted’ 87 rounds of tear gas were fired by the police. This paper will explore the discursive construction of this key precipitant (Kimmel 1990), that is a ‘key’ moment, which recontextualised an on-going universal suffrage campaign into an historical event that allowed, “deeply seated structural forces to emerge as politically potent and begin to mobilize potential discontents” (Kimmel 1990, 9-10). Drawing on the multi-perspective framework of the Discourse of Illusion (Bhatia 2015a) the paper will analyse this key ‘moment’ in Hong Kong’s local memory, which represented one unitary moment of change that transformed the intended course of events. The Discourse of Illusion in this respect will draw on three interrelated components: historicity (one’s habitus as key to the creation of discursive illusions, dealing as it does with the growth and change of perceptions over time); linguistic and semiotic action (subjective conceptualisations of the world give rise to one’s linguistic and semiotic actions, often through dominant metaphorical rhetoric); and the degree of social impact (as language and actions of individuals and groups engender many categories and stereotypes).