In his book entitled, “Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image”, editor Kam Louie assembles an intriguing mosaic of a little city with a larger than life identity. Nicknamed “the City of Life”, Hong Kong is a city of juxtaposed make-up and landscape. From mountains to seas, from communism to capitalism, and from “east” to “west”, Hong Kong is a tidal pool of cultural currents. In Louie’s own description of his created collage, “Taken together, these essays consistently alert us to one key phenomenon: that present-day Hong Kong culture is fascinating because it is a confluence of various cultures from around the world.”
Initially, a larger than life identity seems attractive and is a definite part of the intrigue of the little global city, yet after further exposure the complexity created by the confluence of culture begins to create an identity search that becomes quite cumbersome. In David Clarke’s chapter entitled, “The Haunted City: Hong Kong and Its Urban Others” a concern is articulated for the tension created. “While for the most part I have been talking here of the haunting of Hong Kong by other cities as an anxiety creeping through official discourse that would prefer us to read it as self-confdent in tone, and concerned with uniqueness rather than with mimicry and influence … “ Through Clarke’s chapter and numerous other chapters in Louie’s work, a sense of not only of identity intrigue sets in but additionally a sense of identity crisis.
The identity crisis of Hong Kong could be viewed as that of a middle child. With China as the older sibling and Britain as the youngest, all of the good, bad, and of ugly of each is relentlessly compared to what Hong Kong was and wasn’t, is and isn’t, and will and won’t be. Louie speaks of such a view as translational space, “In this shaky geopolitical terrain, Hong Kong found its firm cultural ground and became a translation space where Chinese-ness was interpreted for “Westerners” and Western-ness was translated for Chinese.” And while it sounds solid, it is truly a liminal space of a cultural identity emergence.
As I prepare for the LGP5 Advance in Hong Kong, I hope to be able to arrive in Hong Kong in search the apparent “peaceable space” created of mountain meets sea, communism meets capitalism, and “east” meets “west” and see the true identity of a new landscape, a new politic, and a new people emerging with great influence in our world. I am amazed at the learning lab this will be for so much that we have read about and have been exposed to through the course of this first year of class. I count my self incredibly blessed and am grateful to have the opportunity for this kind of opportunity in my life. I hope to experience an ethnographic journey that really sees, tastes, hears, smells, and feels the culture of Hong Kong and all that it offers to us on our journey of leadership and true global perspectives.
1 Kam Louie, Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 7, accessed June 13, 2015, http://ebooks.hkupress.org/pdfreader/hong-kong-culture.
2 Ibid. Louie, 50.
3 Ibid. Louie, 2.