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The Humanities Conference 2003

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A Not-Enough Space between the Global and the Local

Ka-Fai Yau.

This paper examines the global-local dichotomy as a trap. But it is not a trap that can be overcome by merely knowing more about the local so that an imposing panoptic mastering viewpoint can be ruled out. Attention to local conjunctures needs to be linked, at all points, to global processes without falling into a nave complementariness in which a colonizing grand-narrative of undifferentiated homogenizing forces meeting endlessly specific and hyper-detailed adaptations doomed to defeat. It is between the colonizing grand-narrative and the endlessly specific and hyper-detailed adaptations doomed to defeat that a tricky space is fashioned for a sort of double frustrations. The trick of such dichotomy is that the global can never be global enough, and the local can never be local enough either. The global has to constantly extend, further include what is left out in the dominant picture, so that taking a global perspective presupposes a self-recognition of insufficiency in being global. The local has to face up to the problem of infinite divisibilty, so that stopping at any point is engaged with privileging a certain well-founded power that prevents the infinite potential of localization. This makes the local not really local enough. Thus there is no easy way to conceive and utilize them in complementing each other. What needs to be articulated is a not-enough space between the global and the local, a space which I will look into through Hong Kong art in the 80s and 90s. The global and the local are indeed not in love.


Ka-Fai Yau  (United States)

Department of Comparative Literature
Stanford University

  • Global
  • Local
  • Hong Kong Art
  • Colonial

(Virtual Presentation, English)