[Update: 8 Feb 2021] Thank you for your support and for your patience – the recordings of the panels and keynote speeches are now uploaded to the YouTube channel of HKBU Arts Faculty. You can revisit the recordings there.

As of 14 September 2020, almost 30,000,000 people have contracted the dreaded life-threatening COVID-19. Over 930,000 lives have been lost to the virus and we all know that this figure will keep on climbing in the foreseeable future. It is tempting to believe that the public health crisis has a simple cause—a new coronavirus—and a clearly defined solution, namely vaccines and prophylactic and therapeutic treatments. Yet, it is crucial to understand that the cluster of crises—economic, educational, generational, and social, among others—that are now regularly traced to COVID-19, are in fact in large measure the result of culture. For the cultural dimensions of COVID-19 to become apparent, we only need to consider the entrenched positions in the global debate about the value of mandating generalized mask wearing in a given population. In Asia, generally speaking, masks were adopted swiftly whereas citizens in the West were deeply resistant to the practice, citing medical but also cultural reasons for refusing it.

The premise of the international symposium is that the cultural dimensions of COVID-19 deserve the most assiduous attention. For if the crises of COVID-19 have as much to do with culture as they do with the workings of a new predatory virus, then the solutions must be sought not only in the sphere of epidemiological research, but also in the domain of culture.

The symposium is organized by the Hong Kong Baptist University, a liberal arts university in Asia. As its name suggests, HKBU is located in Hong Kong, a city that has largely managed to control the public health crisis. One of the densest cities on earth, Hong Kong’s border with China was never fully closed, nor was a fully-fledged lockdown ever imposed. And yet the number of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 deaths remains small. A global city defined by a mix of Western and Asian cultural traditions, Hong Kong offers a compelling space from which to consider—on an international and comparative basis—how culture contributed to the crises of COVID-19 and what role culture must assume as we seek to extract ourselves from the grip of the virus.

Panels arranged in chronological order

Scroll down for programmes of 16 Sep

The opinions expressed by the speakers represent their own views, and do not reflect HKBU’s position.

Register Here

15 Sep 2020 (Tuesday)

Opening: 8:30 – 9:00am (GMT+08:00)
Prof. Roland CHIN, HKBU
Prof. GUO Yike, HKBU
Prof. Mette HJORT, HKBU
Prof. John ERNI, HKBU
Dr. Gcina MHLOPHE, GCINAMASIKO Arts & Heritage Trust (Poem: Message of Hope)

Panel 1: 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. (GMT+08:00)
Death and Survival: the existential dimension

Convenor/ Speaker:
Prof. Srikant SARANGI, Aalborg University, Denmark

Prof. Michael BERRY, University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Harry WU, University of Hong Kong

Panel 2: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Crisis and Response: the cultural underpinnings of action


Ms. Hung HUANG, TV Host, China
Dr. Lun ZHANG, Cergy Paris University

Keynote Speaker: 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Prof. Wenhong ZHANG, Huashan Hospital of Fudan University, China

Keynote Speaker: 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Prof. Zhanfeng CUI, Donald Podlock Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Oxford
Speech Title:Rapid and Affordable Viral Test for COVID-19 – a Potential Game Changer

Keynote Speaker: 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Ms. Zain VERJEE, Journalist, CEO of Zain Verjee Group
Speech Title: Coronavirus in Africa: The Impact and Adjustments on the Continent

Panel 3: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Me and We: networked connection and disconnection

Convenor/ Speaker:
Prof. Dan ZAHAVI, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Prof. Ien ANG, Western Sydney University, Sydney
Dr. Jennifer Daryl SLACK, Michigan Technology University

Panel 4: 8:00 – 9:50 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Death and Survival: cultures of governance

Convenor/ Speaker:
Prof. Daniel WEINSTOCK, McGill University, Canada

Prof. Jamer HUNT, The New School, New York
Prof. David LYON, Queen’s University, Canada
Prof. Ka Ho MOK, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

16 Sep 2020 (Wednesday)

Keynote Speaker: 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. (GMT+08:00)
Dr. George HONG, Fordham University, New York
Speech Title: Balancing Predicament of Propriety in Combatting COVID-19 Pandemic: Comparative Cases of China and the United States

Panel 5: 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Science and Con-science: the cultural life of science

Convenor/ Speaker:
Prof. GUO Yike, HKBU

Prof. Yi NING, Peking University
Prof. Daqing MA, Imperial College London
Prof. Joseph WU, University of Hong Kong

Panel 6: 2:00 – 3:50 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Me and We: (re-)imagining community and social bonds now and in the future

Convenor/ Speaker:
Dr. Ron BURNETT, Emily Carr University of Art +Design

Prof. Dina IORDANOVA, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Prof. Koichi IWABUCHI, Kwansei Gakuin University
Prof. Rod STONEMAN, National University of Ireland, Galway

Panel 7: 9:00 – 10:30 p.m. (GMT+08:00)
Crisis and Response: reactions as intensifiers of crisis

Convenor/ Speaker:
Firdoze BULBULIA, Independent producer, Africa’s Best Channel (ABC), Nigeria

Dr. Cissie FU, Emily Carr University of Art +Design
Dr. Sine PLAMBECH, Yale University
Dr. Gcina MHLOPHE, GCINAMASIKO Arts & Heritage Trust
Ms. Ndileka MANDELA, CEO, Thembekile Mandela Foundation, Author of I am Ndileka – more than my surname

Keynote Speaker: 11:00 p.m.- 12:00 a.m. (GMT+08:00)
Prof. Zuo-feng ZHANG, University of California, Los Angeles
Speech Title: Covid-19 Pandemic: epidemiology and future trends

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