Hongkongology

Hong Kong Louis Vuitton

One of the high end shopping areas of Central HK - several high end stores line the streets, each storefront outdoing the other. This Louis Vuitton takes up half the block.

In doing the preliminary research for my paper, of which the topic was discussed in the previous post, I came upon a fascinating quote (please note, bold and italics my emphasis):

Incessantly and unreflectively, the Hong Kong miracle reproduces itself, to construct the former treaty port as an exemplar of the pragmatic path of advanced capitalism. Intellectuals have created an academic enterprise (the so-called Hongkongology) in order to sell the famous “Hong Kong experience” of their fixation. The popular counterpart of this hegemonic discourse is the Hong Kong fantasy embodied in postcards and coffee-table books that fetishistically, even vulgarly, builds on the glittering prosperity of the city; this fantasy is invariably taken as the totem representing Hong Kong and contextualizing the meanings of this long-colonial urban site. As a consequence of these perceptions, the hardships of poverty have been, so to speak, petrified, distanced as a faraway historical period – archaeologically termed the Age of Poverty – and thus, in effect, removed from the present-day social memory of Hong Kong. In this way, poverty and the impoverished are suppressed by this glittering totem and are effectively removed from the social agenda.
- Excerpt from Speaking Out: Days in the Lives of Three Hong Kong Cage Dwellers by Siu-keung Cheung

Perhaps that is why I’m finding it so difficult to find articles relevant to my topic… an extremely fascinating point, as I was wondering if the obsession with consumerism and money in Hong Kong has created a “gilded age” in which the ugly aspects of poverty have been completely glossed over.

I often felt anxious leading up to the trip that Hong Kong wouldn’t be the place for me in terms of the issues I’m interested in studying. I’m not sure how I could have ever worried about that now that I’m here – it seems the perfect nexus to study the issues I want to focus on: the way economics impacts human rights, colonial legacies, the collision of cultures (Chinese and Western), the way societies are economically and racially stratified, and last but not least, issues having to do with poverty in general.

Oh, and I still need to find out who exactly these elusive “cage people” are…. perhaps I’ll inform you next time…