Knowledge Migration and the Politics of Innovation

Saskia Witteborn


This article illustrates how transborder knowledge migrants cocreate sociotechnical imaginary in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in the wake of the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill protests and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through interviews with migrant-led and -staffed startups and analysis of documents published by the Hong Kong SAR government and its institutions, the study shows how these actors shape an imaginary of socioeconomic well-being through technological innovation and diversity. Young people are protagonists in this narrative and are envisioned as transforming desires for political emancipation into desires for self-actualization and creative labor for the common good. The startups’ narrative of growth through technology backs the official narrative of the innovative knowledge society firmly embedded in a sovereign China. By referring to other regions in the world, the study argues that migrants become a socioeconomic prosthesis for a society under pressure as they are implicated in narratives of cultural and economic reproduction that serve political goals.


digital economy, generation Z, innovation, migration, startups, technology

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