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/PaulOConnor
@peejayohhsee
everydayhybridity@gmail.com

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  1. Upcoming talk at CUHK for the Institute of Future Cities
Creative Arts and Education with Indonesian Foreign Domestic Workers
2 April - 5:30pm to 7:30pm

    Upcoming talk at CUHK for the Institute of Future Cities

    Creative Arts and Education with Indonesian Foreign Domestic Workers

    2 April - 5:30pm to 7:30pm

     
     
  2. I am covering 2 very interesting posts from GlobalVoicesOnline they connect to some other blogs too, so follow the links.

    First we have Shenzhen which has launched an initiative to get correct mistakes in English signs around the city.

    Secondly we have a report on the recent court case of abuse to an Indonesian Foreign Domestic Worker in Hong Kong and efforts to highlight the experience of this group in the territory.

    Included is a picture from respected photographer Gráinne Quinlan  who has done a series of shots about why women travel to Hong Kong to work. These are covered more fully on the HongWrong blog.

    Interestingly enough both stories dovetail on the issue of signs.

     
     
  3. This short editorial on Indonesian Foriegn Domestic Workers in Taiwan is an interesting contrast to the situation here in Hong Kong. Space is the issue that is identified and it has so often been the issue with FDWs in Hong Kong too.

    I must say a thanks to Dr Batairwa for passing this on to me.

     
     
  4. Another event coming up. There was a similar one in February with some amazing costumes and dances. Well worth a visit.

    Another event coming up. There was a similar one in February with some amazing costumes and dances. Well worth a visit.

     
     
  5. "Indentured Servitude in Hong Kong Abetted by Loan Firms"

    An interesting news report from Bloomberg on the web of debt that Indonesian and Filipino foreign domestic workers can find themselves in whilst working in Hong Kong. It has some interesting points.

    This comes in a week in which I have heard of two acquaintances firing their domestic helpers because they ran up debt in excess of $HK 100,000.

    Arida, the domestic worker who stopped paying her loan in July, said her employment agency, Hong Kong-based Wang Fullco Co., made her sign papers before leaving Indonesia that she wasn’t allowed to read and that pledged her house as collateral. She said she was told that some of the money she agreed to pay was for expenses incurred during six weeks at a boarding school learning Cantonese and how to use a washing machine. A mother of three from the island of Java, Arida said she received a signing bonus of 2.5 million rupiah ($260), which she later was told was included in the amount she had to repay. She wasn’t given any receipts or allowed to keep copies of the papers she signed, she said.

    And I merit a brief mention in the analysis.

    Paul O’Connor, a lecturer at Chinese University of Hong Kong and author of “Islam in Hong Kong: Muslims and Everyday Life in China’s World City,” published in September, said the Indonesians he studied considered their first months or year in Hong Kong to be like a “prison sentence” that they have to get through in order to get a greater payoff.

    The truth is this article really does shine a light on an important aspect of everyday life for foreign domestic workers. It also shows how vulnerable Indonesians are in this respect. Yet talking about the financial aspect alone (I understand it is Bloomberg) overlooks how this type of pressure also goes hand in hand with other strains.

    For example Amy Sim reports that many of the women are molested on their ways to their training camps. On arrival in Hong Kong their fragile economic condition means that they are susceptible to abuse and exploitation, often putting up with it so they can clear these debts.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-13/indentured-servitude-in-hong-kong-abetted-by-loan-firms.html

     
     
  6. Imagined Communities is one of those books that crops up in the references of scores of books that I have read, yet I have never read it myself. Earlier this week I set to remedy that. I can see why it is such a key text but it makes me want to revisit Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism .

    Here is an excerpt from Anderson…

    Some of the peoples on the eastern coast of Sumatra are not only physically close, across the narrow Straits of Malacca, to the populations of the Western littoral of the Malay Peninsula, they are ethnically related, understand each other’s speech, have a common religion, and so forth. These same Sumatrans share neither mother-tongue, ethnicity, nor religion with the Ambonese, located on islands thousands of miles away to the east. Yet during this century they have come to understand the Ambonese as fellow-Indonesians, the Malays as foreigners.

    Benedict Anderson “Imagined Communities” pp 120-121.

     
     
  7. Sone Indonesian women steal a nap in Victoria Park.

    Sone Indonesian women steal a nap in Victoria Park.

     
     
  8. (From Time Magazine)

Can China Make Its Cuisine — and Finance — Friendly to Muslims?
China’s legendary cuisine has been a secret weapon to winning many an investment. But when a major ingredient of the culinary experience is pork, hospitality can only go so far when it comes to entertaining Muslim businessmen from countries like Indonesia and the Gulf’s emirates.

How the Chinese have been able to adjust can be seen in Hong Kong, the international trade port that many of these business people go through on their way to mainland China.

Take a look at the Islamic Centre Canteen, just a few floors above the Wan Chai mosque. Wrapped up in the savory, little dumplings the canteen serves is the quintessential Hong Kong culinary experience, sans the pork. That kind of accommodation for Islamic dietary rules is growing, along with business prospects from the Muslim world.
In 2010, there were only 14 certified halal restaurants and markets in Hong Kong, advertised by visitor centers. In the past year alone, however, the number has almost tripled. Muslim community leaders have intimated that the Hong Kong government has collaborated with Islamic clergy in order to lure prospective Muslim guests with dining options. The Hong Kong Tourism Board reports that in recent years, the number of Middle Eastern visitors to the region has grown by as much as 20% annually.

One can often find tourists from the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, where 13 of Hong Kong’s official halal restaurants are located. The tourists usually buy wholesale mobile phones — often knockoffs — manufactured at mainland factories for resale at home. “There has been an increase in halal restaurants in the past few years; not only that, but supermarkets are now serving lots of halal products,” says Wael Ibrahim, an Egyptian businessman who has lived in the greater China region for a decade and chairs Serving Islam, Hong Kong’s Muslim community organization. Ibrahim explains that promoting halal-food offerings is an effective way of “tightening the relationship between Hong Kong and other countries.”

Establishing Muslim-friendly services in China’s Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region may well be part of a multipronged attempt to establish a stronger business relationship between the natural-resource-rich Muslim world and the greater China region, which is in dire need of fuels for its burgeoning economy. “Mutually beneficial cooperations between China and the Muslim world are extremely important to China,” says Ma Hongjian, president of the Beijing-based China-Arab Council for Investment Promotion, explaining that since 9/11, trade partnerships between the two have skyrocketed because many Muslim businesspeople were unable to obtain visas to the West and instead started going to China in droves. “There are so many examples of the Chinese government trying to provide facilities for our Muslim guests,” says Ma, himself a Chinese Muslim.

In 2010, the mainland Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has become a hub for international Muslim businesses in recent years, hosted the Asian Games. Over half of the 45 participating nations were majority-Muslim countries and major sources of China’s oil and energy needs. For the occasion, the Guangzhou city government poured some $2.4 million into the construction of a giant mosque, a monument to the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas, who is traditionally believed to be entombed nearby. The government estimates that 30% of the food served at the games was certified halal.

More recently, Hong Kong has been trying to position itself as a conduit for Muslim business with the mainland. And it is not just by offering the business community more dining options but also by developing a strong platform for Islamic finance — which is compliant with Shari’a and prohibits usury, which many modern-day practitioners interpret to mean any form of interest. Investments in un-Islamic industries dealing, for example, in pornography, gambling and alcohol are also prohibited. “We hope to develop a wholesale Islamic capital market,” says a spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau. That would include Islamic bonds, known in Arabic as sukuk, which pay investors in assets to avoid, at least nominally, the exchange of interest.

Local Muslims are still skeptical. “We hear that [Hong Kong banks like HSBC] are studying about implementing Islamic finance in Hong Kong, but so far nothing major has materialized,” says Ibrahim of Serving Islam. Indeed, while the official policy of the Hong Kong government may be to welcome Muslim business to the region, perennial reports of workplace discrimination and harassment of Pakistani and Indonesian Muslims abound.

Hong Kong may work to offer Muslim visitors halal dumplings at the Islamic Centre Canteen in Wan Chai, but the city’s employers often refuse to let Muslim migrant workers practice their religion as desired. Sullying Hong Kong’s name in Indonesia late last year, two live-in Indonesian domestic workers were reportedly forced to eat pork and take off their headscarves by Hong Kong employers, according to the Jakarta Post. They also told the newspaper that they no longer prayed five times a day. “There’s no time, and the employers always complain, so we just gave up. It’s easier that way.”

    (From Time Magazine)

    Can China Make Its Cuisine — and Finance — Friendly to Muslims?

    China’s legendary cuisine has been a secret weapon to winning many an investment. But when a major ingredient of the culinary experience is pork, hospitality can only go so far when it comes to entertaining Muslim businessmen from countries like Indonesia and the Gulf’s emirates.

    How the Chinese have been able to adjust can be seen in Hong Kong, the international trade port that many of these business people go through on their way to mainland China.

    Take a look at the Islamic Centre Canteen, just a few floors above the Wan Chai mosque. Wrapped up in the savory, little dumplings the canteen serves is the quintessential Hong Kong culinary experience, sans the pork. That kind of accommodation for Islamic dietary rules is growing, along with business prospects from the Muslim world.

    In 2010, there were only 14 certified halal restaurants and markets in Hong Kong, advertised by visitor centers. In the past year alone, however, the number has almost tripled. Muslim community leaders have intimated that the Hong Kong government has collaborated with Islamic clergy in order to lure prospective Muslim guests with dining options. The Hong Kong Tourism Board reports that in recent years, the number of Middle Eastern visitors to the region has grown by as much as 20% annually.

    One can often find tourists from the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, where 13 of Hong Kong’s official halal restaurants are located. The tourists usually buy wholesale mobile phones — often knockoffs — manufactured at mainland factories for resale at home. “There has been an increase in halal restaurants in the past few years; not only that, but supermarkets are now serving lots of halal products,” says Wael Ibrahim, an Egyptian businessman who has lived in the greater China region for a decade and chairs Serving Islam, Hong Kong’s Muslim community organization. Ibrahim explains that promoting halal-food offerings is an effective way of “tightening the relationship between Hong Kong and other countries.”

    Establishing Muslim-friendly services in China’s Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region may well be part of a multipronged attempt to establish a stronger business relationship between the natural-resource-rich Muslim world and the greater China region, which is in dire need of fuels for its burgeoning economy. “Mutually beneficial cooperations between China and the Muslim world are extremely important to China,” says Ma Hongjian, president of the Beijing-based China-Arab Council for Investment Promotion, explaining that since 9/11, trade partnerships between the two have skyrocketed because many Muslim businesspeople were unable to obtain visas to the West and instead started going to China in droves. “There are so many examples of the Chinese government trying to provide facilities for our Muslim guests,” says Ma, himself a Chinese Muslim.

    In 2010, the mainland Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has become a hub for international Muslim businesses in recent years, hosted the Asian Games. Over half of the 45 participating nations were majority-Muslim countries and major sources of China’s oil and energy needs. For the occasion, the Guangzhou city government poured some $2.4 million into the construction of a giant mosque, a monument to the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas, who is traditionally believed to be entombed nearby. The government estimates that 30% of the food served at the games was certified halal.

    More recently, Hong Kong has been trying to position itself as a conduit for Muslim business with the mainland. And it is not just by offering the business community more dining options but also by developing a strong platform for Islamic finance — which is compliant with Shari’a and prohibits usury, which many modern-day practitioners interpret to mean any form of interest. Investments in un-Islamic industries dealing, for example, in pornography, gambling and alcohol are also prohibited. “We hope to develop a wholesale Islamic capital market,” says a spokesperson for Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau. That would include Islamic bonds, known in Arabic as sukuk, which pay investors in assets to avoid, at least nominally, the exchange of interest.

    Local Muslims are still skeptical. “We hear that [Hong Kong banks like HSBC] are studying about implementing Islamic finance in Hong Kong, but so far nothing major has materialized,” says Ibrahim of Serving Islam. Indeed, while the official policy of the Hong Kong government may be to welcome Muslim business to the region, perennial reports of workplace discrimination and harassment of Pakistani and Indonesian Muslims abound.

    Hong Kong may work to offer Muslim visitors halal dumplings at the Islamic Centre Canteen in Wan Chai, but the city’s employers often refuse to let Muslim migrant workers practice their religion as desired. Sullying Hong Kong’s name in Indonesia late last year, two live-in Indonesian domestic workers were reportedly forced to eat pork and take off their headscarves by Hong Kong employers, according to the Jakarta Post. They also told the newspaper that they no longer prayed five times a day. “There’s no time, and the employers always complain, so we just gave up. It’s easier that way.”

     
     
  9. Indonesian Foriegn Domestic Workers snacking on a pedestrian bridge in Mong Kok.
joseetan:

Snack, Mongkok

    Indonesian Foriegn Domestic Workers snacking on a pedestrian bridge in Mong Kok.

    joseetan:

    Snack, Mongkok

     
     
  10. Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers - Nicole Constable
I started reading this book a couple of nights ago and I just can’t understand why I haven’t seen more of this book about in Hong Kong. I have come across some really eye opening books on how to discipline your helper and countless magazine articles about how to manage helpers. This however is what really needs to be read.
Over a third of the way in and Constable is tackling the really interesting issues. How did foreign domestic help come to be so popular in Hong Kong, what are the historic cultural norms for domestic work and help.
It was only after watching the movie ‘The Help’ that I finally decided to buy this book. My wife talked about the parallels in that movie to the domestic helper situation in Hong Kong. This book really ties it together for the Hong Kong context.
Highly recommended, but also, like Gordon Mathews’ book on Chungking Mansions, the themes of globalization, migration, and trade really do extend beyond the Hong Kong focus.

    Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers - Nicole Constable

    I started reading this book a couple of nights ago and I just can’t understand why I haven’t seen more of this book about in Hong Kong. I have come across some really eye opening books on how to discipline your helper and countless magazine articles about how to manage helpers. This however is what really needs to be read.

    Over a third of the way in and Constable is tackling the really interesting issues. How did foreign domestic help come to be so popular in Hong Kong, what are the historic cultural norms for domestic work and help.

    It was only after watching the movie ‘The Help’ that I finally decided to buy this book. My wife talked about the parallels in that movie to the domestic helper situation in Hong Kong. This book really ties it together for the Hong Kong context.

    Highly recommended, but also, like Gordon Mathews’ book on Chungking Mansions, the themes of globalization, migration, and trade really do extend beyond the Hong Kong focus.