Faculty of Arts Niche Research Area


The Faculty of Arts’ Niche Research Area has three central topics, Well-being, Value, and the Public Good. Colleagues in the Faculty conduct research relating to these topics separately, but also to the ways in which they are interrelated. The niche research area is centrally concerned with how (cross-)cultural and creative practices bring value to the lives, not just of individuals, but entire communities, thereby playing a constitutive role in the building of good societies and in producing the public good. A thriving government-funded Liberal Arts university that is expected to produce research with relevance to society, HKBU offers a fertile environment for imaginative research on the benefits that culture and creative practices bring to the world. Among other things, colleagues in the Faculty of Arts are interested in the contributions of music to the quality of a life over time, in the role of creative writing in the context of trauma and therapy, in the value of prayer, and in the effects of creative practices on solidarity and the social bond in the context of diverse societies and amongst marginalized communities.

Structure and Role of the Faculty Niche Research Area

Six sub-themes (Performance Studies; Chinese and Cross-Cultural Health Humanities; Framing Public Culture; Creativity, Self, and Society; Minority Studies/Marginalized Populations Studies; and Anthropocene Studies) provide the structure for the niche research area, with each sub-theme being linked to an interdisciplinary research group. To facilitate interdisciplinarity, each group has an anchor and co-anchor from different departments. All research postgraduate students in the Faculty of Arts are encouraged to join at least one research group and thus the FNRA plays an important role in the development of research talent. The activities of the research groups include the development of team-based grant proposals, discussion of individual grant proposals, presentations of work in progress, and workshops with researchers from the group’s local and international networks.  A map of external engagements (for example with research centres and community organizations) informs the activities of each research group, enabling both impact and the development of local and international research projects of significant scope and scale.

The Research Groups

Performance Studies (anchor, Prof. Johnny Poon, Head of Music; co-anchor Dr. Chow Yiu Fai, Humanities and Creative Writing)

This research group explores the concept of “performance” broadly construed to include not just performing arts, but also performance as a practice of self-presentation. This sub-theme focuses on the study of performance of all kinds: the world-making power of performance in creative*, social and culture practices as well as in the performance of everyday 'life'. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to the study of performance, this research group seeks to understand expressive behaviour or cultural enactment, as well as the role of performance in contemporary life.

*Creative practice: creative writing, translations, theatre, music composition and performance.

Chinese and Cross-Cultural Health Humanities (anchor, Dr. Ellen Zhang, Head of Department of Religion and Philosophy; co-anchor, Prof. Lo Ming Tung, Head of Department of Chinese Language and Literature and Director of Centre for Chinese Cultural Heritage)

This is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research field that focuses on the relationship between arts, humanities, health, and well-being. The concept of health is studied in relation to (i) language, discourse, and narrative; (ii) literary representations; (iii) philosophy and (applied) ethics; (iv) religion and spirituality; (v) gender studies, and (vi) creative writing and performing arts (e.g. music and visual arts).

Framing Public Culture (anchor, Dr. Robert Neather, Head of Translation and Director of the Centre for Translation; co-anchor, Dr. Eugene Birman, Department of Music)

This sub-theme focuses on how culture is produced and represented in the public sphere, and how such representations are in turn consumed or contested by the general public. The sub-theme includes areas such as the production and public circulation of literature, the role of advertising in the construction of cultural identity, and the ways in which bilingual museums create cosmopolitan spaces for intercultural dialogue.

Creativity, Self, and Society (anchor, Professor John Erni, Head of Humanities and Creative Writing; co-anchor, Professor Helan Yang, Music)

This sub-theme explores creativity through scholarly studies and creative arts practices with a focus on areas such as self-hood, environmental awareness, a deeper understanding of society in a trans-cultural context, and the fostering of imaginative and critical thinking, all of which are essential to well-being, value, and the public good.

Minority Studies/Marginalized Populations Studies (anchor, Dr. Ester Leung, Translation; co-anchor, Dr. Daisy Tam, Humanities and Creative Writing)

Minority Studies/Marginalized Populations Studies focuses on a wide variety of minority groups (ethnic, religious, sexual, linguistic), and explores how an understanding of issues relating to minority identity, well-being, and forms of cultural production can contribute to the empowerment of such communities within mainstream society. Examples of broad areas of interest within this sub-theme include self-representation in minority literatures, healthcare communication in ethnic minority contexts, and minority rights.

Anthropocene Studies (anchor, Professor Kwai Cheung Lo, Humanities and Creative Writing and Head of Creative and Professional Writing; Dr. Jessica Yeung, Translation)

The geological term “Anthropocene,” designating significant human impacts on ecosystems, constitutes this subtheme that aims to examine how humanities such as philosophy, literature, and arts respond to climate change, environmental politics, human-nature interactions, interspecies relationships, global competition for resources, effects of fossil fuel consumption on the Earth as well as other related socio-cultural transformations.