Everyday Hybridity

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

Lecturing in Anthropology at CUHK

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

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  1. The delicate art of forgetting…to improve

    I came across a situation the other day where someone was trying desperately to remember something that had slipped from their mind. It became a moment of self reflection for me as I realised I no longer get frustrated when I forget stuff. I traced the contours of this epiphany and began to pinpoint when it all began…I was delivered to the mid-stages of my doctorate. 

    At this time I was in the midst of an explosion of thought. I had completed the key parts of my research and I was analysing the data. At the same time I was reading a whole bunch of  un-explored literature and coming up with some great new ideas. I found that I was holding so much complex information in my head I was unable to deal with it all. Even to the point where if I was making notes I couldn’t scribble them out, or type fast enough to get out all the subtleties of the interconnecting ideas. I would try to stay up late until I had thought through, followed up, and recorded my thoughts. It was difficult and frustrating to deal with it all.

    Then I  fell in love with forgetting. I simply had to sleep, or I had to attend to my kids, or other mundane and earthly issues. In these moments when my thoughts were fractured I began to appreciate the catharsis of letting it all go. I realised that by forgetting, or losing my train of thought, I came back sharper with a more elegant mind. At times I thought I had grasped something truly beautiful and I marched home seeking a moment to jot it down…but it had flown. But when my next idea came it was more solid, more memorable, more accessible. Thus forgetting helped me improve.

    To bring this to a wider field of analysis the human mind has remarkable abilities to remember and forget. In many cases forgetting can be regarded as a necessary defence mechanism to make the world liveable, understandable, bearable. I think that the human mind has a certain buoyancy and that we must trust it to deliver, when necessary, the truly useful information we require.

    But now thinking about what I wrote…just forget it.

     
     
  2. 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.

     
     
  3. This is a research project from Liverpool University on music, memory, and place. It is an online questionnaire of about 6 pages. Lots of fun questions that will allow you to talk about music, reminisce, and talk about your tastes. It is anonymous and quite good fun.

    The only caveat is that it is focussed on England, and English Music, or the experience of Music from England. So if you live, have lived, or come from England you are the focus of their study. (Thanks to ThePovertyOfTheory for keeping me on my toes with this one. My tendency to gloss the English as the British has been noted many times before.)