Dr. Mateja Kovacic won a three-year Early Career Scheme of the University Grants Committee, for her project Transnational Anarchist Digital Networks.

Mateja is Assistant Professor in the Animation and Media Arts Programme at the Academy of Film, School of Communication and Film, Hong Kong Baptist University.  She was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies.

Project title:  Transnational anarchist digital networks: Japanese animation and civic imagination in political and cultural movements in Hong Kong

Project description: 

In a three-year Early Career Scheme project funded by the University Grants Committee, Mateja researches the role of Japanese animation in Hong Kong's political and cultural movement since the introduction of “the Bill” in March 2019. Popular culture has played an important role in Hong Kong protests. By using a transcultural mixture of popular references, from animation and music to games and memes, young people have been collectively and spontaneously creating a popular transcultural iconography and language composed of various media including videos and digital artwork. Japanese animation in particular has been used to communicate mutual aid and resistance to the existing political order in Hong Kong and beyond. Based on this, the project conceptualises Japanese animation as a transcultural visual and linguistic, cooperatist anarchist digital network purposed to create and maintain a site for civic imagination and cooperation. 

The theoretical framework of transnational cooperatist anarchism (Konishi 2013) allows for a study of Hong Kong's cultural movement as a non-institutional and non-hierarchical cross-cultural network connecting ordinary people in the digital space through a shared interest in popular culture and enables identification of new usages of digital media and networks in cultural movements. The theoretical framework of civic imagination (Jenkins, Peters-Lazaro & Shresthova, 2020) as the capacity to imagine alternative realities further opens up the existing and emerging forms of activism and civic participation through popular culture in everyday digital practices in the Hong Kong context to a critical inquiry.

As such a new form of techno-culture generated by the people and digital technologies, media, and networks, Japanese animation shows the emergent relationships between people's civic imagination, cultural and political movements and digital technology. The observed practices are ordinary: there is nothing special about them and they are grounded in the mundane. The particular theoretical framework in this project aims to open up the ordinary to new interpretations, identify new forms of life, and generate new epistemologies of ordinary life, as practiced and imagined by the ordinary people through digital popular culture.

Early Career Scheme (ECS) is a research grant awarded by the University Grants Committee to support research projects and research activities. It is the main form of funding for academic research in the eight UGC-funded universities and is allocated on a competitive basis.