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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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9. Conclusion 179

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179 CHAPTER 9 Conclusion In this concluding chapter, I reiterate my position on historical narration. It is not my theoretical position to account for the possible social conse- quences of intellectual narrations as praxis in the public writings of intel- lectuals; rather, the social margins in historical events play the primary role in shaping the intellectual self through which an intellectual writes for the social margins discovered in the very traces of his or her experi- ences with social marginals – the emergence and formation of self in one’s historical encounters with these ‘strange’ social margins. I admit that there is a matter of degree involved in fully representing the social margin(s) because different intellectuals have different orders or priorities for repre- senting their social marginals according to their specifi c theoretical incli- nations and interpretations. Dr S, for instance, places more emphasis on defending human rights and freedom in institutional politics than on pro- viding a ‘thick description’ of the oppressed whose rights and freedoms were exploited and whose encounters with Dr S in his historical experi- ences were detailed in his public intellectual writings. These narrations are fulfi lled in writing as follows. First, an intellectual narration unfolds the themes in which an intellectual, as the narrator, was situated: the nar- rated context of history and his or her self-involvement in the recollected historical events in the fi rst person. Second, the emplotment of history, or the selection of certain historical events in an intellectual’s self-narration, is constitutive...

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