Everyday Hybridity

Dr Paul O'Connor
Anthropology/Sociology/Cultural Studies/
Hong Kong/Ethnicity/
Skateboarding/Everyday Life

Lecturing in Anthropology at CUHK

Me

cuhk.academia.edu/PaulOConnorFollow me on Academia.edu
@peejayohhsee
everydayhybridity@gmail.com

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  1. HongWrong Blog posts newly restored Hong Kong Newsreel from 1962

    This is a timely post showing groups of refugees from the Mainland being shipped back to China. As the refugees are driven out of Hong Kong, local people throw supplies of food and cigarettes to the departing people.

    Fast forward to 2014 and we are in the midsts of the latest Hong Kong / Mainland tension in the territory. This one is all about relieving oneself in public. The outcry of Hong Kong people towards Mainland parents who allow their children to urinate and defecate in public places has seen recent escalation. Mainland netizens are calling for tourists to bring their children to Hong Kong specifically to urinate in public, and some Hong Kongers are calling for group defecation outside Gregory So’s home in response to his call for tolerating public urination of visitors as best practice. The BadCanto twitter feed notes that the only person prosecuted for public urination has been an Indian man.

     
     
  2. A very interesting post from one of Hong Kong’s greatest blogs, ‘Hong Wrong’.

    Offensive street names, bad translations, and mistaken transcriptions.

    Full post here.

     
     
  3. Pictures from Hong Kong’s Islamic cemetery. The cemetery dates back to the 1850s when land was first given to Hong Kong’s Muslim community. At that time a small mosque was also situated there to provide rites for the dead. During the late 1970s it was reduced in size to make way for the Abderdeen tunnel. There is currently some work taking place on the site. It is a fascinating spot that provides a glimpse into Hong Kong’s past and present diversity.

     
     
  4. "Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book."
    — 

    Cicero, circa 43 BC (via amandaonwriting)

    “The recency illusion is the belief or impression that something is of recent origin when it is in fact long-established.”

    (via cimness)

    The recency illusion extending from linguistics to include the identification of things recently noticed as new that have long been present. This also fits with Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis in which the new is part of an existing rhythm, like the aphorism that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes’. It is therefore possible that the recency illusion is not about enduring truths, but fluctuations. Sometimes children obey their parents and books get finished…but the rhythm is cyclical, it comes round again and the new is the new-old.

     
     
  5. Deaths Tell the Story of Life in Old Hong Kong

    This is a great little article about an fascinating book. Having previously lived in Happy Valley for many years I became very familiar with the cemeteries in the area. They do tell a valuable story of Hong Kong.

    I can’t help but draw a parallel between this type of documentation of the past and some of the Insights Abbas makes about Hong Kong and the politics of disappearance. There is something intangible and remote about Hong Kong culture and everyday life, analysis of it is often cumbersome, slippery, and unsatisfactory. However, using conceptual anchors of the past, of disapperance, memory, and place can collude to build an engaging account of the territory.

    This is of course a real gem for anyone fascinated with graveyards and biographies, but ultimately one of those ‘key’ Hong Kong books.

    Interview here

    Book here

     
     
  6. Last night whilst talking to colleagues and students we debated Hong Kong landscape, history, and photographs. I commented that whenever you go to a bookshop in Hong Kong, despite the vast array of books on Hong Kong, typically 50% of what is on the shelves are photo books of Hong Kong. These books are normally contemporary pictures, or a collection of ‘old’ Hong Kong. What is desperately lacking is a contrasting book of old and new.

    Fortunately there is a wonderful Flickr group that fills this void. It houses a remarkable collection of photos in which it is possible to trace change, discontinuity, and permanence in the Hong Kong physical and built landscape. One photo that I do not include here shows Chungking Mansions photographed approximately 25 years apart. There is little change.

    For Hong Kong people these photos are valuable in dramatic ways. THe cultural history of the territory changes in such a dramatic pace, that these small fragments of the past hold the key to unlocking memories that have been cemented over, lost in the sea, and constructing upon.

    For my further musings on the changes to HK places see here. Also some other collections of Hong Kong photographic history here and here.

     
     
  7. Meandering through Monopoly, The Peak, Governor Young, and Crisis Capitalism

    This board game provided me with some interesting things to reflect upon. I like how they have adapted the classic game for the Hong Kong setting and I find it very interesting to see how the different areas of Hong Kong are priced and profiled as either cheap or elite and expensive.

    Of course Victoria Peak is still the most expensive spot on the board. Buying a deed for The Peak costs $3000 in comparison with the paltry $600 needed to get a spot at Chek Lap Kok

    However, what many people may not realise is that racial segregation in Hong Kong in the early 1900s resulted in the prohibition of Chinese from living on the Peak. Often this prized location is imagined as unobtainable beacause of its expense. But since the early days of the colony, Hong Kong has always had very wealthy Chinese and Eurasian families. For these people, The Peak was denied. The Peak ordinances of 1904 and 1918 legally enforced this.

    During the same era in 1919 part of Cheung Chau island was also reserved for British missionaries. This is  alarming as a deliberate anti-inclusive move by an evangelical group.

    Such racial segregation and legislation was deeply unpopular in Hong Kong and was widely regarded as a humiliation.

    The Peak ordinances were finally repealed in 1946. After the end of WW2 and the return of British rule to Hong Kong after the Japanese occupation, the Governor Mark Young instigated broad changes.

    The ‘1946 spirit’ as John Carroll (2007:132) terms it, was a turning point in Hong Kong history. This was the moment that Hong Kong came closest to self-determination, and full independence. Governor Young felt strongly that Hong Kong could make the transition to a full city-state and perform an intermediary role between the East and the West. It was however never to be. Britain felt that Young was too influenced by the liberation of Hong Kong and softened by his sympathy to the hardships the colony’s people had faced under Japanese rule. Many of the local Chinese elite also felt that the reforms were a step too far. His reforms were only ever partially put into practice, but he did put an end to The Peak Ordinances.

    I considered Young’s changes in the light of Naomi Klein’s ‘Shock Doctrine’ argument. In which governments and capitalists take advantage of crisis in order to privatise public amenities. Mark Young’s ‘1946 spirit’ was less to do with ‘crisis capatalism’ and much more to do with an earnest capitulation to independence. Crisis is not simply an opportunity for change, crisis is change. The Japanese Tsunami of 2011 has been a catalyst for the closure of nuclear power programmes in both Japan and Germany

    So whilst Klein rightly notes that Hurricane Katrina destroyed not only New Orleans, but also the public schools programme, this is not always the case. Crisis and fortune work in more complex ways.

     
     
  8. The book is published!
A little ahead of schedule, and now available from HKU Press. In the coming weeks it will appear on Amazon, in local bookstores, and slowly start making its way to libraries.
Thanks for all the interest from my Tumblr followers, friends, colleagues, research participants and everyone else who has contributed in one way or another.
Keep posted for further news about the release.
Here are some of the book’s endorsements….
"An unexpected gem. An innovative book which explores the everyday lived reality of Muslim minorities in Hong Kong. The contemporary focus is framed by a fascinating history of South Asian Muslims which reaches back into the early 19th century. This beautifully wrought study sheds a great deal of light on a range of issues impacting Muslim minorities: from the extent of hybridity—adapting basketball spaces to cricket—to the challenge of eating halal in a culinary culture where pork is ubiquitous! Young Muslims in Hong Kong face racism and their inability to access Chinese language schools has huge implications for employment and social mobility. However, Islam is respected and they are not seen through a security lens. In all, a hopeful study." — Philip Lewis, author of Islamic Britain and Young, British and Muslim "There has long been a need for a book-length account of Muslims in Hong Kong; this readable and informative book admirably fills the void. Anyone interested in how Muslims make their lives and practice their faith in the Chinese city of Hong Kong should definitely read it." — Gordon Mathews, author of Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong "In this insightful and fascinating book, O’Connor walks us through the bustling streets of Hong Kong, where space, civility, hope and freedom are created every day by the territory’s diverse Muslims. It provides a rare glimpse into an imperfect, but perhaps ‘good enough’ cosmopolitanism, lived in the schools, homes, shops and lives of ordinary people. Amidst the worry and panic about young Muslims in diaspora as either problems or victims, this is a refreshing and much-needed account of the valuable ways a global city deals with difference. An essential text for scholars and students of youth, diversity and contemporary multiculturalism." — Anita Harris, author of Young People and Everyday Multiculturalism

    The book is published!

    A little ahead of schedule, and now available from HKU Press. In the coming weeks it will appear on Amazon, in local bookstores, and slowly start making its way to libraries.

    Thanks for all the interest from my Tumblr followers, friends, colleagues, research participants and everyone else who has contributed in one way or another.

    Keep posted for further news about the release.

    Here are some of the book’s endorsements….

    "An unexpected gem. An innovative book which explores the everyday lived reality of Muslim minorities in Hong Kong. The contemporary focus is framed by a fascinating history of South Asian Muslims which reaches back into the early 19th century. This beautifully wrought study sheds a great deal of light on a range of issues impacting Muslim minorities: from the extent of hybridity—adapting basketball spaces to cricket—to the challenge of eating halal in a culinary culture where pork is ubiquitous! Young Muslims in Hong Kong face racism and their inability to access Chinese language schools has huge implications for employment and social mobility. However, Islam is respected and they are not seen through a security lens. In all, a hopeful study." — Philip Lewis, author of Islamic Britain and Young, British and Muslim 

    "There has long been a need for a book-length account of Muslims in Hong Kong; this readable and informative book admirably fills the void. Anyone interested in how Muslims make their lives and practice their faith in the Chinese city of Hong Kong should definitely read it." — Gordon Mathews, author of Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong 

    "In this insightful and fascinating book, O’Connor walks us through the bustling streets of Hong Kong, where space, civility, hope and freedom are created every day by the territory’s diverse Muslims. It provides a rare glimpse into an imperfect, but perhaps ‘good enough’ cosmopolitanism, lived in the schools, homes, shops and lives of ordinary people. Amidst the worry and panic about young Muslims in diaspora as either problems or victims, this is a refreshing and much-needed account of the valuable ways a global city deals with difference. An essential text for scholars and students of youth, diversity and contemporary multiculturalism." — Anita Harris, author of Young People and Everyday Multiculturalism

     
     
  9. "…the ubiquitous “Chinese” architectural style that characterised early urban Hong Kong-the shop with living quarters upstairs and a verandah-was imported to Hong Kong from another British colony, SIngapore, which in turn was affected by older colonial cities in India, such as Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras."
    — 

    A Concise History of Hong Kong, John M. Carroll (2007) p.4.

    When charting the hybridity of Hong Kong it is often the case that historic Hong Kong echoes the same mixture and diversity that we presently see in the territory. Carroll’s book provides a keen insight to this dynamic. This is underlined, as the book notes, even when we reach back hundreds of years before the British arrived.

     
     
  10. "The second avatar was the map-as-log. Its origins were reasonably innocent - the practice of imperial dye. In London’s imperial maps, British colonies were usually pink-red, French purple-blue, Dutch yellow-brown, and so on. Dyed this way, each colony appeared like a detachable piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As this ‘jigsaw’ effect became normal, each ‘piece’ could be wholly detached from its geographic context. In its final form all explanatory glosses could be summarily removed: lines of longitude and latitude, place names, signs for rivers, seas, mountains, neighbours. Pure sign, no longer compass to the world. In this shape, the map entered an infinitely reproducible series, available for transfer to posters, official seals, letterheads, magazine and textbook covers, tablecloths, and hotel walls. Instantly recognisable, everywhere visible, the logo-map penetrated deep into the popular imagination, forming a powerful emblem for the anti-colonial nationalisms being born."
    — 

    Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities p. 175

    A fantastic quote. Succinctly summing up the way we associate a map with a geographic outline. Reflecting on Hong Kong, I have the outline of the territory sealed in my mind to such an extent that I could quite accurately draw it freehand. It is only an outline, separated from all surrounding context and removed of any physical feature. But in a rather odd way it is a national representation, it triggers an emotional response, identification, a sense of belonging.