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Devising creativity in Hong Kong: An affective performance methodology

Anne Harris and Kelly McConville

Affective encounters

Affect studies has taken deep root and diversified since Silvan Tomkins’s articulation of his ‘nine affects’ within psychology' (Tomkins, 1962/1991), now most widely known by contemporary critical scholars including Lauren Berlant and Kathleen Stewart (2019), Lauren Berlant (2011), Sara Ahmed (2010), Melissa Gregg and Gregory Seigworth (2010), Erin Manning (2009), Kathleen Stewart (2007), and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (2003), among others. While we look elsewhere for signs of life, agency and matter that matters, affect studies encourages scholars to look more critically at the pre-emotional intensities, flows and opportunistic nature of events and bodies of all kinds.

Manning tells us to look for ‘expression of body-movement relation—the interval—brimming over with micro-perceptions ... never quite actualized. What is expressed is the variational field of movement. What is produced is sensation or feeling, affective tone’ (Manning, 2009, p. 95). Devising in research or other contexts is an example of Manning’s interval, an exchange or event between bodies toward an indeterminate but shared idea—in this case an idea about creativity and its different lives in different cultures. This chapter explores the ways in which, in one case study, affect presents itself in a verbatim theatre event as a pulse that moves between and amongst the bodies collaborating about creativity and culture. For us, Manning’s articulation of affective bodies helps us think differently about collaborative performance-making and co-creation, recognising that ‘While affect can never be separated from a body, it never takes hold on an individual body. Affect passes through, leaving intensive traces on a collective bodybecoming’ (Manning, 2009, p. 95). This essay brings together creativity studies, performance and affect in a transcultural project, a collaboration between Hong Kong and Australian theatre-makers/researchers.

Performing Hong Kong. Photo by Ka Lai Chan

FIGURE 7.1 Performing Hong Kong. Photo by Ka Lai Chan

The project’s conceptual approach is informed by Harris’s (2014) articulation of a cultural turn in creativity discourses which favours innovation and commodification rather than slow creativity, aesthetic or experiential creativity, or play and experimentation. The 'Phase 2’ of the overall 4-year study sits within the long tradition of theatre practice built upon found source materials alternatively described as verbatim theatre, documentary theatre, reader’s theatre, ethno- drama, and performance ethnography. Creating place-based performance works in research contexts, and in response to research engagements, is nothing new. However, finding practice-led ways of conducting or enhancing large-scale, mixed-method, multi-sited ethnographic projects, and in ways that attend to the affective dimensions of this work, are. Beck et al. (2011) note the slippages in various forms of what they term ‘research-based theatre’ that encapsulates verbatim, performance ethnography, ethnodrama, and more. They point to tensions like aesthetics which are governed by university ethics processes when making theatre in academic settings or with scholarly data in which consideration of human and other participants must be primary. The 4-year research project from which this ‘Phase 2’ devising work is excerpted, investigates culturally specific forms of creativity—its practices and its discourses—across higher education and creative and cultural industries throughout East Asia and Australia. We address the devising component independently, in order to more deeply explore its possibilities for expanding the depth and affective resonance of large-scale international (mixed method) research projects.

East Asian creative flows

Attention to the possibility of a regionally unique way of expressing and understanding creativity in this overall study allows a process of ‘zooming in’ and ‘zooming out’, an integrated meta-view of the creative flows across our region, but also the specifics of cities-as-sites rather than whole nations. Set against snapshots of all sites from a creative economic and cultural industry view, the Phase 2 verbatim/devising aspect of the study is one collaborative ‘zoom in’ that facilitates close attention to the affective reverberations of intercultural collaboration through theatre devising. It recognises and values creative practice as culturally and contextually generated, and investigates the unique contribution of an ‘Asian-Australian creativity’ as specific to our geopolitical place and time. The project is generating new cultural, interdisciplinary and policy knowledge into how regional cooperation, marked by new models of educational and workplace training, are emerging. By looking across the education lifespan and creative economic practices and goals, the project builds transnational understanding and alliances for Asia Pacific regional and global creative economic success. This essay explores the affective power of both со-devising across cultural differences, but also the ability of multi-sited ethnographic research work to bridge difference and sameness in global flows. Following Kathleen Gallagher’s (2014) work on youth engagement and international multi-sited theatre collaboration, this project attends to the affective power of being-with across those global flows.


The methodology for the study was derived from Harris’s articulation of and commitment to the power of a ‘creative ecology’ rather than investigating individual creativity (Harris 2016; Harris & de Bruin, 2018a, 2018b). The overall study is comprised of six sites across Australia and Asia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. In ‘Phase Г, each mixed methods data set consists of: 150 online surveys with higher education students in a range of disciplines, plus 25 one-to-one hour-long interviews with participants from three sectors: university educators, creative/cullural industries’ managers and professionals, and artists from diverse artforms. The surveys are concerned with the kind of training and perceptions of workplace requirements the university students in these cities are experiencing, anticipating or preparing for. The semi- slruclured interview questions are focused on local, regional, and transnational perceptions and practices of creative and cultural economies, specific to their context and sector. In total, the full data set for this study will comprise 900+ surveys, 150 one-on-one interviews, six 30-minute devised performances, and a 50+ archive of creative self-portraits.

Phase 1 data sets include rich, thick description of the creative environments (as part of the ‘creative ecologies’ conceptual approach), as well as participants’ deep narratives of their creative professional experiences, enabling a focus on the lived experience and perspective of the participants, as qualitative inquiry seeks to do

(Denzin & Lincoln, 2008; Greswell, 2008). This chapter draws on the Hong Kong data, including the interview participant set (55% female and 45% male) who discussed experiences that revealed a rich creative ecology that is ‘embedded and immersed in a world of objects and relationships, language and culture, projects and concerns’ (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009, p. 21), articulating the shaping of creative experiences, creative processes, collaborations, and the affordances of and constraints to creativity in their work and learning environments in 2018-2019.

A survey of 150 university students across five institutions in Hong Kong provide quantitative data on students’ perceptions of their own and their institutions’ creative training and environmental characteristics. The statistical and survey data was collected online, coded and analysed using Dedoose software and focused mostly on their perceptions of creativity within their institution and course, always with reference to the specificities of each site, in this case the Hong Kong context.

More in-depth qualitative questions were asked of the university teachers, creative/cultural industries professionals and artists via one-on-one interviews, in which they described their environments (classes within university courses, creative capacities within current creative workforces, and artists’ creative practices in contemporary creative cultures and economies). An ecological perspective considered creativity development, practices, and inter-connectivity across different strata -between and within levels of education, providing detailed reflections of needs, wants, and actualities of graduate capabilities, as well as of the wider ‘creative content’ within university courses, creative industries and artist practices.

The narrative data was firstly open-coded through an ‘immersion approach’ that established preliminary interpretations. Multiple readings accompanied by general note taking summarised chunks of data into emergent themes. Quantitative student data is used to contextualise beliefs of skills gained and environments in which both the university teachers and students are learning in a ‘creative ecology’ or community. The larger data sets possible through quantitative survey tools allows the rich narrative data of the interviews to be broadened as well as multiple perspectives brought to bear. In addition, qualitative responses from teacher and practitioner/artists offer an experiential account of how university is/ is not preparing students for the workforce, as well as how industry practitioners perceive the creative qualifications of graduates entering Hong Kong’s workforce. Phase 2 is comprised of two parts: a digital photographic component, and a part- devised, part-scripted performance component. The photographic component asks willing interview participants to allow the research team to photograph them in their ‘creative work environment’, or alternatively to share with the team their own ‘selfie’ which reflects their creative self-image or the creative ecology- in which they work. These images help constitute an online archive of creative environments (together mapping a ‘creative ecology’) in each of the six sites in the study. First, in order to contextualise the study overall, and especially our focus on Phase 2 performance devising for this essay, we briefly survey contemporary conditions for creativity and education in Hong Kong.

Creative ecologies in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is changing at an unprecedented rate, culturally, politically and economically. Those both in and outside of Hong Kong have noted the importance of creativity for Hong Kong’s next stage of development. Led by their creative industries sector, Hong Kong—like most other emerging creative economies—still struggles to define its unique creative identity, two decades after the British ‘hand back’ of Hong Kong to China, and within a growing mainland Chinese political and economic influence. As one of the actors in our project reflects:

If we only see mainland China we will think that we are not good enough, but compared with the Western part of the world we see that we also have a position for being a place of art. It is very important to do comparisons, otherwise we don’t know what we are.

The Hong Kong government has funded major industry-oriented organisations to advance workforce capabilities. In 2001 the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission were tasked with spearheading Hong Kong’s drive to become a world-class, knowledge-based economy (see, by funding the Innovative Technology Fund (ITF) and the DesignSmart initiative. Its aims were to support the fostering of an innovation and technology culture, promote technological entrepreneurship, and to provide technological infrastructure that facilitates the development of innovation and technology. Other initiatives since 2001 have included the Science Park (design and technology initiative), ASTRI (technological transfer from industry for commercialisation) and Cyber- port, a US$2 billion landmark project housing about 100 infotech companies and 10,000 infotech professionals.

The Hong Kong Design Centre is a multi-disciplinary, non-profit organisation that holds year-round seminars, workshops and conferences to promote awareness of upgrading the business and design expertise of design professionals and students. The Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC) promotes and supports the broad development of the arts, acting as a link between the government, arts sector and the public. In the last ten years, international flagship events like Art Basel and others have put Hong Kong on the international stage as a go-to destination for creative and cultural industries, all the while growing more locally focused art venues and events too (White, 2018). Regional recent creative education initiatives include the UNESCO ERI-Net Asia Pacific Study on Transversal Competencies in Education Policy and Practice (UNESCO, 2016) focusing on developing students’ holistic skills and competencies. This policy marks a more regional shift in focus beyond foundational literacy and numeracy skills toward developing competencies in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and self-awareness, employing the term ‘transversal competencies’ to describe these skills needed for so-called twenty-first century learners.

Following secondary education, students with results that satisfy university entrance requirements are admitted to one of the eight universities, which have a combined undergraduate population of over 50,000. Apart from certain specialised courses such as medicine, undergraduate education spans three years and specialisation is immediate, with students assigned to respective schools and faculties from the beginning. There are very few degrees that deal extensively with creativity or innovation outside the mainstream, apart from specific courses on design (Lai, 2008).

Eighteen percent of Hong Kong’s university cohort matriculates immediately after their secondary school years, and another twelve percent enters from other forms of short-cycle higher education, lagging behind Asian cities such as Shanghai and Singapore, where nearly 60 percent of young people enter some form of postsecondary' education. The tertiary education enrolment rate is expected to reach 40% by 2020 (compared with 24.2% in 2009). Internationalisation has seen over 80% of non-local students being from the Chinese mainland in the years 2012-2013, and steadily increasing (Lee, 2014).

Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee (UGC), a governing body for accountability in teaching, research, institutional management, and quality assurance, published the report ‘Aspirations for the Higher Education System in Hong Kong’ (University Grants Committee, 2010) in which it argues that ‘Investment in higher education is a prime contribution to the creation of Hong Kong as an “innovation society”—the formation of a population imbued with the appetite, confidence, skills and agility for the future’ (p. 16). But the UGC, like its counterpart in so many other countries worldwide, instead foregrounds ‘value for money’, ‘fitness for purpose’ and ‘transparency of management and accountability’ (Lee, 2014), and an explosion in institutional and individual creative entrepreneurship. Jayasuriya (2015), Marginson (2011), and Lo (2015) note a neoliberal education agenda that commodifies Hong Kong’s tertiary system, but yet constrains strategy-building innovation and business demands in tertiary graduates. Debate continues on appropriate models of teacher education remaining siloed in subject disciplines versus more integrated and transdisci- plinary approaches, particularly in relation to fostering creativity. One teacher educator interviewed for this study reflected:

The concept of creativity seeps into education in ways that, as an educator, are troubling ... Things like ‘The three C’s’, critical thinking, communication, creativity. These terms kind of lose their meaning, they become something other than what they mean. Then they become these words that you somehow implement by publishing textbooks, by doing this particular thing in the classroom and then, it’s always overwrought with these neoliberal competitive discourses.


Participants in this study from both creative/cultural industries, as well as higher education, all agreed on one common point: that higher education training is still out of sync with the contemporary creative workforce demands. University training is still largely falling behind on the creativity and speculative mindset training required by contemporary industries, across a wide range of fields. This dis- juncture between training and workplace requirements informed the decision to return to each site, and through creative performance collaboration to engage more deeply, and in an iterative process, at each site. On returning to Hong Kong, we engaged with local perspectives not only through the analysis of the transcripts, then creation of the playscript, but through the affective engagement of verbatim theatre devising with local actors.

Verbatim theatre

What has come to be known as verbatim theatre, (approximately thirty years old and attributed to Derek Paget, 1987), is more prevalent in the British context, with documentary theatre more closely aligned with the American. Like verbatim and documentary theatre, readers theatre is also script-based, but takes an agit prop and largely ‘unstaged’ approach. Verbatim theatre is not always strictly limited to the exact words from interviews without enhancement; there is a range of variation in which some playwrights/researchers create composite characters, write contextualising dialogue, etc (Harris & Sinclair 2014; Gallagher el al., 2012). Often, verbatim theatre is used, like applied theatre, in an action research cycle with vulnerable communities around issues of social change or social justice, but not always. For example, The Laramie Project, by Moises Kaufman (2000) and the members of Tectonic Theatre Project, is an example of verbatim theatre, using not only interview transcripts but journal entries, print and digital media, and more. 'Ihe Laramie Project is also an example of theatre engaging a specific community around an Issue of social justice or human rights. Scholars such as Johnny Saldana have described shows like The Laramie Project and the work of Anna Deavere Smith as ethnodrama, but in professional theatre and performance sectors, they are more frequently referred to as verbatim or documentary theatre.

Gallagher reminds us that ‘storytelling through theatre takes on a polyvocality, rather than a “telling it like it is”. Storytelling also helps us see how it is that stories of cultures come to be taken as natural and unquestioned’ (Gallagher, 2014, p. 16). Gallagher goes on: ‘Rather than taking experience and stories as the grounds for ethnographic authority, as more traditional forms of anthropological and educational ethnography have done, storytelling as method in “the field” with young people is often consensus-resisting and dialectical’ (p. 16). Our approach to our devising in the field can be understood through Gallagher’s lens of dialectical storytelling. The power of this co-creative approach is not in the end product (or even interim product) but rather in the working-together of the method, and the mutual bodily and discursive language we find together. This kind of doing-together across cultures is the kind of slow creativity that so powerfully counteracts the ‘commodified creativity’ global prevalent today (Harris, 2014, 2016).

Affect and the body

Sara Ahmed’s notion of ‘sticky affect’ has been widely taken up, extending previous work on the subject, an extension that is particularly useful for thinking affect with performance. Her articulation of affect as that which ‘sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects’ (Ahmed 2010, p. 230), she says, ‘contrasts with Brian Massumi’s work, which suggests that affects are autonomous and distinct from emotions’ (p. 230). She claims the work of emotions are ‘under-described’ (p. 230) and spells out the nuanced and less binary relationship between affecLs and emotions: for Ahmed, affect and emotion ‘are contiguous; they slide into each other; they stick, and cohere, even when they are separated’ (p. 231). This overall study on creativity in Australia and its region does include attention to affective creative versus commodified (market) creativity, or what has more widely been known as creative industries, but it is this Phase 2 devising part of the study in which affect is most present, through the co-creation event of bodies coming together across space and time.

In this verbatim theatre collaboration, there were affects circulating that went beyond creativity or a sense of flow or other co-creative excitement. The cultural component of the work brought a sense of sticky affect around what it meant to be Hongkongers, and what a city/site can be said to ‘be’ at any given time. Can a city have an affect or affects? Ahmed’s theorisation of affective objects, and Harris and Holman Jones’s (2019) theorisation of queer affects certainly address the possibility of affect being both corporeal and beyond-bodies. For Manning, 'Affect passes directly through the body, coupling with the nervous system, making the interval felt. This feltness is often experienced as a becoming-with’ (Manning, 2009, p. 93). But this project asks, can a city and its bodies become- with a kind of unique creativity, as creative affect is becoming-embodied? For Harris & Holman Jones, affect can be an instinct which can flow beyond bodies, extending Ahmed’s distinction between fear as an affect distinct from the emotion of‘being afraid’.1 So here we ask whether bodies in performance collaboration can ‘co-create’ before they can articulate an act and emotion such as ‘being creative’.

Intercultural performance devising

In March 2019, the authors and an additional team member spent three days at University of Hong Kong, devising a performance from excerpts of six transcripts from interviews conducted there the previous year. The intention of the devising part of this study is to return to the site to work more deeply in a collaboration loop which allows multi-modal collaboration, sharing and reflecting on the themes, affective resonances, and diverse knowledges generated by multiple data enactments. The devising includes a range of collaborative drama activities including improvisation, free association brainstorming, soundscape-brainstorm- ing, and editing and blocking the provisional script curated by Harris. The immediate goal of the Phase 2 devising component was to devise approximately 30 minutes of performance work about Hong Kong creativity to share with an audience of interview participants, invited guests and the public.

On the first morning of the intensive devising period, the objective was to introduce the actors to one another, introduce ourselves as researcher-practitioners, and to anchor the work of Phase 2 to the time and place from which the research material that would inform the basis of the performance work emerged. Following a series of introductory exercises, typical in performance devising, the actors were invited to create a moving soundscape of Hong Kong. On one whiteboard, they brainstormed sights common to Hong Kong, and on another, sounds.

They were then each asked to select one sound that they could generate using their voices in a repeated fashion. Selected sounds included: short, spoken sentences featuring a hybrid of English and Cantonese, local birdlife, honking cars, and a train announcement. These were layered over the top of one another, thereby creating a cacophony of sound that was reflective of the excitement and frenetic energy of Hong Kong. A similar process was followed with the sights of Hong Kong, this time with the actors creating a moving tableau by embodying the sights of Hong Kong in a repeated manner. Coming to life in this moving

Soundscape brainstorm

FIGURE 7.2 Soundscape brainstorm. Photo by Ka Lai Chan picture were people praying at one of the many temples across the country, altercations in the street, Hong Kong milk tea servers and people dodging one another on the sidewalk. The moving image and soundscape combined to create an evocation of the rich sensory context in which the interview data was collected. It also demonstrably invited the actors to become collaborators and contributors to this phase of the study.

Next, we turned our attention to the five curated interview transcripts that would form the provisional script for the performance. The text included representative voices from each of the three categories of interviewees: two artists, two university teachers, and one creative industry professional. These were selected on the basis of the range of views and voices they expressed about creativity education and industry in Hong Kong. While the full transcripts had been dramaturged toward a provisional script, the Hong Kong actors were important in responding to the most and least evocative sections as the script evolved.

Returning to the site: intercultural creativity

This task of script creation was one that could have been undertaken back in Melbourne by the researchers; however, doing so in-situ with the actors proved vitally important in terms of enriching the script and voices through their local

Go-devising the script

FIGURE 7.3 Go-devising the script. Photo by Ka Lai Chan expertise. In working through the emerging text together, the actors were able to identify lines, stories or perspectives in the text that resonated with their subjectivities as locals, ones which the researchers may have otherwise overlooked. Similarly, parts of text that the researchers viewed as highly controversial were clarified as being culturally significant in Hong Kong at that time. This act of collaboration served as an intercultural mediator for sense-making of the data, leading one of the participants to report that:

Yeah, and for me to work in those monologues with Kelly and Anne is really, I think, the character for me as a local, I can really see the person in the transcript.


The second day progressed from the soundscape about Hong Kong more generally, to the sights and sounds of creativity in Hong Kong. Brainstorming for this component took quite a bit longer than the day before, with actors initially struggling to identify anything at all that they saw as being synonymous with Hong Kong creativity. Slowly they began to identify things such as local comedians, restaurants, tattoo artists, and Cantonese opera. Although it required longer to conjure, the picture that emerged was a city bustling with a vibrant intersection of tradition and contemporary humour (see https://creativeagency. for a link to soundscape audio, a component of the performance).

The improvised work was theatrically dynamic and rich—an energetic combination of gestures, movements, musicality and speech that articulated a unique blending of creative cultural specificities. In later unpacking his instinct to include the contemporary humour of Hong Kong comedian, Stephen Chow, one local actor described the significance of it in relation to Hong Kong culture:

Within that limitation actually Stephen Chow is trying to walk in a fine line. One step further, it’s something obscene and one step backward, it’s something not really. And Hong Kong is always like walking on a line and that’s how we do.


In responding to the provocation in an embodied manner, a nuanced and rich commentary on the role of Hong Kong creativity emerged at a time of increasing tension and nostalgia for a Hong Kong that many felt was passing away or being actively eradicated, twenty-two years after the British handover.

Following the generation of this second moving soundscape of Hong Kong creativity, attention was turned to an exploration of the scripts and how the contents ‘spoke to’ one another. The scripts were divided into sections, and the actors stood in a V-formation with those playing the artist characters standing downstage at the widest points of the V, those playing the university teachers in centre- stage left and right, and the actor playing the corporate manager upstage centre forming the point of the V. Each spoke their monologue one after the other and, whilst doing so, the other actors were directed to listen as their character, responding with their body language when they felt their character agreed or disagreed with what the speaking character was saying about creativity in Hong Kong. A similar process was followed in the afternoon with the second section of transcripts, this time with the actors standing side by side horizontally across the centre stage line. Instead of using body language to express agreement or otherwise, the actors moved downstage when they felt that their characters agreed, or upstage when they did not. The degree to which they moved from their original position was representative of the degree to which their character aligned with the perspective being shared. The symbolic exploration through blocking and stage movement was effective both for the actors in terms of embedding the content of the scripts in their bodies, as well as being aesthetically rich in terms of conveying convergence and divergence between the perspectives in the dialogue. This corporeal engagement with the script moved the work from resonance to embodied enactment, a co-creation of polyvocal and multi-cultural values and expressions present within the characters’ work.

These exploratory' formations became the foundation of the blocking for the performance, with the soundscapes deemed as rich dramatic devices to be used as transitions between sections of dialogue. A motif of group ‘silent brainstorming’ using Post-It notes became an effective symbol of East-West differences in crea- tive/design brainstorming, an evocative part of the content of one of the transcripts. As one of the respondents told us, the western group ideation model doesn’t work the same way in Hong Kong, as designers prefer to silently/individually brainstorm onto Post-It notes which can be read out to the group, a technique we adopted for this performance. This was incorporated physically in the middle section of the performance, thereby underscoring for the audience that this performance was intended to be only a part of the larger intercultural discussion about creativity in Hong Kong and its region.

On the final day, the actors and research team returned to the university classroom to bring together the work of the previous tw'o days’ explorations. The result was a workshop performance of the verbatim scripts about creativity in Hong Kong, using the intercultural collaboration as an embodied basis for the investigation. That afternoon, a mixed academic and public audience filled the classroom to watch the performance. It was framed as a sharing of work-in-pro- gress, into which the audience were invited as collaborators and commentators, and about which they could share their responses either verbally or using the Post-It notes that formed part of the performance. In the 45-minute post-performance discussion, the audience and performers considered their resonances with the themes presented through the creative work, including the role of language in local creativity and comparisons between their own unique approach and that of regional neighbours. What also emerged from the discussion was that the performance had exposed the deep love and passion for Hong Kong that the audience felt, as well as a sense of fear, concern and sorrow about what was perceived as the passing of their cultural identity. For our team member Ka Lai Chan who contributed to and documented the devising process—a Hong Kong local living and working with us in Melbourne—what the work had generated for her was a sense of hope amongst the cultural unease. In responding to the sadness expressed by one of our audience members, she observed:

As a Hongkonger all my life, I spent my life here, I did feel this urgency to document everything because I feel that, as Akbar Abbas said, Hong Kong culture is a culture of disappearance and I did worry but after these three days, working with these young people, it really gives me this hope and there’s this—coming back to the resistance, the idea of resistance. It’s a little bit cliche but honestly, honest to my heart, these young people, they are our resistance. Yeah. They are the resistance against disappearance.

(Chan, in discussion)

This reflection on her unique position in the devising process as both insider and outsider to Hong Kong is demonstrative of the affective power of being-with that the co-creation of dialectical storytelling can provide.


This provisional collaborative devising project illustrates the ways in which intercultural making-with can offer powerful affective experiences while not seeking to (or needing to) make representational work that ‘typifies’ our own or other cultures. We see this methodology as an extension of more traditional performance ethnography (Gallagher, 2014; Harris 2012) in which creatives from different cultures or communities come together with openness to share insights about our specific contexts and practices. The laughter, sorrow, and pre-verbal, pre-emotional affects that circulated in our creative collaboration as well as in the room during performance illustrate Manning’s articulation of how ‘affectively, feeling works on the body, bringing to the fore the experiential force of the quasi chaos of the not-quite-seen’ (Manning 2009, p. 95). Through out- shared co-creation work, this not-quite-seen has become part of the study on Hong Kong creativity that might not have been articulable, or even literally actable in performance.

By focusing on the collaborative, affective power of such encounters, researchers can allow the ‘data’ to speak for itself, impacting the performers and ‘audience members’ differently with no need or attention to generalisation, to analysis or to persuasion which still too often typifies research outcomes or engagements. We hope that this small snapshot of this much larger multi-sited international ethnographic study on creativity in the East Asian-Australian region also demonstrates some ways in which collaborative, intimate, affective, creative methods can form an important part of large-scale large-data set studies in drama, performance and creativity research.


1 Ahmed claims ‘The “fear affect” can be separated from the self-conscious recognition of being afraid (the flicker in the corner of the eye signalling the presence of the stranger, which registers as a disturbance on the skin before we have recognized the stranger as a stranger’ (Ahmed, 2010, p. 231).


This study is funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (2017-2021), grant no. FT 170100022, А/Prof Anne Harris sole investigator. The authors would like to thank Dr Aaron Koh, Dr Margaret Lo, Ka Lai Chan, and Dr Leon de Bruin for their contributions to data collection at this site.


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