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Intellectual Narratives

Theory, History and Self-Characterization of Social Margins in Public Writings

Alex Ching-Shing Chan

This book aims to study the intellectual lives of three Hong Kong intellectuals by narrating their lives as self-reflections on theories related to social margins. Drawing on insights from Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt and Zygmunt Bauman, the author analyses their narratives through in-depth interviews. Their stories point to an interpretative understanding of the works they had cursorily read when creating their historical narrations of Hong Kong from the 1970s to 2003. These stories of individual intellectuals, together with their interpretations of what they have individually read about various western theories, challenge theoretical prescriptions of historical contingent events in their narration. Such narration unfolds self-characterizations of intellectuals the author interviewed, and represents a neglected social marginal which demands that immediate attention in the public through their intellectual writings.

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5. Readings and Struggles: Hermeneutics of Suspicionin the Social Context of Intellectual Life 81

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81 CHAPTER 5 Readings and Struggles: Hermeneutics of Suspicion in the Social Context of Intellectual Life All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen At the end of Chapter 3, I outlined an analysis of intellectual narrative in which an intellectual biography records the emplotment of unprecedented historical events on the one hand and the constitution of an intellectual’s self-character in writing on the other. In telling a story about the other(s) one encounters, what makes both emplotment and plot meaningful is the subjective interpretation of how an intellectual reads the texts of different schools of thought and interprets them. Paul Ricoeur’s critical intuition about the textual interpretation of the unconscious and symbols is an imaginative extension of oneself as the reader and the interpreter. His ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ poses challenges to the mainstream ratio- nal interpretation of text. However, I have cautioned against this textual approach to self which reduces face-to-face encounters to the ontology of self and precludes one from being disposed to explore others phenom- enally. My position is not a textual interpretation of a character an intellec- tual has identifi ed, a character which, in the view of the intellectual, truly represents ‘the other’ explored phenomenally in history or storytelling. In other words, reading and interpretation provide the pivotal mediation between the emplotment of history and the construction of the other in historical experience and a textual imaginary of the plot as the...

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