I am so thankful to my colleagues Devin Singh and Jeremy Sabella at Dartmouth College for inviting them to their course on Religion and Social Struggle to talk about Hong Kong. I was able to join into conversation with them some of my thoughts on the film Ten Years, which won many awards in Hong Kong when it came out in 2015.
It’s not the first time I’ve taught Ten Years. At a community event in 2016 in Vancouver, I was invited to offer introductory remarks bridging Ten Years with my edited collection Theological Reflections on the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Since then, I’ve taught the film in my courses on Global Chinatowns at Northwestern and Publics and Privates on the Pacific Rim here at Singapore Management University.
Every time I teach the short films that make up this collection, my interpretation gets a little deeper. I think there are some who think that the dystopian nature of the film has very easy geopolitical explanations. But the meditation is much more ontological, and over the time of preparation, it sent me to Robert Alter’s translation of the Twelve Minor Prophets in his Hebrew Bible translation project. In this way, I recognize that this work of teaching is an act of what I have called ‘grounded theologies.’
I’m deeply thankful to Devin and Jeremy for the opportunity to guest lecture in their course, as well as the brilliant engagement of their students with these important events around the world. It helped me to deepen my thinking, and in this time when the value of the academy is being called into question, such conversations reveal that collegiality is not dead and that perhaps we are being invited to develop an intellectual commons with ecological significance.