Accepted Paper:

Political representation at the Hong Kong coroner's court  


Andrew MacNaughton (Reitaku University)
Kam Bill WONG (Zhejiang Gongshang University)

Paper short abstract:

Expectations for judicial independence in Hong Kong have imbued the Coroner’s Court with a peculiar form of political relevance as the state narrative grows at odds with observations. Analysis of public/coroner interactions show it represents a very active boundary between state and everyday life.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the role of a coroner's court as an expressive setting for socio-political agency, in which the creation of inquest records for individual deaths is elaborated by the coroner to create a new resource for use in personal appeals for atonement and representation. We see that the Hong Kong Coroner's Court has in recent years begun to surpass the terms of its ordinance as it expands engagement with families and local communities, providing an alternative space within which to publicize wrongs in society and atone for associated deaths. As it does so, it becomes a proxy for state-individual interaction, and a kind of para-infrastructure, where the resource of a coroner's hearing can amplify praise or criticism against any outside body, including government and other judiciary members. Anthropologists of law have examined such para-infrastructures resulting as states cede services to outside entities as a "new normal" of overlapping roles and resources. Could this mean, in a society widely described as a neo-liberal economic haven, that a substantial part of Hong Kong's civic society exists in a para-infrastructure created by the Hong Kong Coroner's Court? We argue that this expanded role for the coroner is particularly visible under, and possibly due to, the conditions present in Hong Kong.

Panel RM-SPK08
Talking like a state: political narrative in everyday life