Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Temporalities, a Disability Chronotope, and Empathetic Horizons in Still Human

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2021), 15, (1), 19–37.


The article engages with arrangements of time and space and how they conjoin to constitute a disability chronotope that combines with other textual elements to both expand and limit empathetic horizons in Still Human, a film about a physically impaired middle-aged man and his Pilipino foreign domestic helper (FDH), set largely within a Hong Kong public housing estate. The study distinguishes between the text’s declarative and descriptive layers, albeit while recognizing the forced and perhaps violent nature of this division. Structuring the surface of the film are technical codes and a chronological, optimistic, and sometimes humorous overcoming narrative through which protagonists triumph over tragedy. However, the surface of the text is intermittently disturbed by descriptive layers, or figurative currents. Although this troubling content appears peripheral to, and on the margins of, the text, this underlying and seemingly extraneous content is a crucial supplement which may more effectively realize authorial intentions to disclose the protagonists’ humanness and engender empathy than the more prominent technical codes that structure the text’s surface. Such coexisting layers illustrate how texts are stratified and how the content of texts and the intentions of authors are haunted by undecidability.

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Author details

Cockain, Alex