Place-making and Communication Practice: Precarity in a Night Market in Hong Kong

Photo by Mandy Choi on Unsplash

My M.Phil. thesis project was situated in a multi-ethnic night market consisting of a group of unlicensed hawkers in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong. The hawkers faced legal, spatial, and temporal uncertainties in their daily work. They did not know whether, when, and where they could hawk in the market. Grounded in Cultural Discourse Analysis, this thesis explored how the hawkers constitute and maintain the socio-cultural meanings of place and themselves as the precarious being through their communication practices (Carbaugh, 2007). I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in this market and in-depth interviews with hawkers in 2015 and 2016. I observed and documented how hawkers constructed themselves as precarious beings through spatial practices. Hawkers, meanwhile, adapted to the government’s urban governance rather than engaged in collective resistance against precarity. This project hoped to contribute to better understanding the lived precarious experiences of hawkers in an informal economy.

Thesis Committee: Saskia Witteborn (Advisor), Eric Kit Wai Ma, and Jack Linchuan Qiu


Research from this project was also presented at the 2016 ICA Annual Conference and the 2017 ICA Annual Conference.

Ngai Keung Chan
Ph.D. Candidate in Communication

I’m a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. Currently, I study how algorithms and performance metrics transform and shape labor control and resistance in the digitally-enabled gig economy.