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Work-in-Progress Workshop in Hong Kong Studies 2023 #3

Workshop 2023 #3

Date & Time: April 21, 2023, 17:00-18:30 HKT

Format: Virtually via Zoom

Discussant: Prof. PANG Laikwan is Professor of Cultural Studies and Head of the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Presentation 1

Title: Hong Kong Literature and its Intertwining Temporalities

Presenter: Elizabeth E. CHUNG, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Abstract: Hong Kong Literature in English made itself known in popular culture in the mid-twentieth century with novels like The World of Suzie Wong and Love is a Many Splendored Thing bringing attention to the region. However, these texts are notably written by expatriates and are often considered to be negatively exoticizing. With the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, authors including Xi Xi and Leung Ping-Kwan came to the fore, and critics such as Ackbar Abbas and Michael Ingham note the confluence of “local” and “immigrant” voices alongside cultural creation despite an imminent “disappearance”.
Given recent events and the subsequent outflow of Hong Kongers from the city, the perspective of the diaspora is establishing itself as pertinent and its own Hong Kong identity, particularly within literature. Much of this is written in English – a bold choice in itself for the postcolonial individual – which then questions linguistic accessibility and intended audiences, and the significant socio-political interest in Anglophone regions.
The above provides a variant of Derridean Hauntology as framework for themes in contemporary Hong Kong Literature. My interpretation of this theory regards how authors may utilise the past to represent the present, and how past and future temporalities ‘haunt’ the present day. Through Kit Fan’s 2021 novel Diamond Hill which uses 1980s Hong Kong to discuss current issues, I will develop this theory and discuss cyclical experiences across generations whilst also considering the (somewhat juxtaposing) temporal dissonance and synergy in the region, and issues of expression given contemporary issues.

Keywords: English Literature, Hong Kong identity, linguistic accessibility, socio-political interest 

Project type: This paper is an adapted and developed chapter from the author’s MPhil thesis

Presentation 2

Title: How does the recent artistic turn to nature in Hong Kong help unearth Hongkongers’ cultural identity?

Presenter: Clara Cheung, University of York

Abstract: Natural landscapes and environmental sustainability has become a prominent subject matter for contemporary artists in Hong Kong in the past two decades. During the British rule, the green space of the New Territories (N.T.) in the north of Hong Kong has long been kept as a natural border between Hong Kong and China. Around the year of 2008, civic movements against urban developments in the northern N.T. began with concerns about environment sustainability and justice of land ownership . With many cultural practitioners and artists participating in these movements, artworks in the nature and about the nature quickly evolved. Many of these works invited Hongkongers to reflect upon their cultural identity, which had mainly been associated with their urban lifestyle and the rapid economic growth after the1970s. Besides, artworks situated in the northern N.T. exhibit the border of Hong Kong vividly and, therefore, unavoidably probe questions about the difference between Hong Kong and China.
Outlining the background of the recent artistic turn to nature by contemporary artists in Hong Kong, this paper argues that this artistic turn interacts with the larger civic movements in Hong Kong, and is a decolonial art movement that contributes to the reimagination exercise for a new Hongkonger identity. The paper also takes Taiwan’s Hsing-t!u literature in the 1960s-70s for reference to critical reflect upon the danger of any decolonisation movement to become merely nostalgic of an imaginative indigenous culture, and suggests that Hong Kong’s unique situation would avoid such.

Keywords: environment sustainability, cultural identity, northern New Territories, contemporary art, decolonial art movement, Taiwan

Project type: PhD conference paper

Elizabeth E. CHUNG (Chinese University of Hong Kong) & Clara Cheung (University of York)
Date & Time
21 April 2023