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/PaulOConnor
@peejayohhsee
everydayhybridity@gmail.com

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  1.  
     
  2. Whilst the article argues that anti-racism laws could protect members of the same ethnic group from discriminating against each other, another question is how much do these people really recognise themselves as being of the same ethnicity? News stories that exacerbate the ways in which the two groups are polarised only serve to deepen the division and cloak the key politics issues at stake.

    As always the comments section is more enlightening than the news article.

     
     
  3. On being African in China
Zahra Baitie writes a candid piece about her experience of being an Africa n student in China. Many of the stories she recounts are familiar. The acceptance that Zahra provides of the way in which she is dealt with is both refreshing and telling of the situation that she finds herself in.
Much of what she talks about is a kind of everyday racism (Essed 1991), but it also underlines the very different way of talking about and confronting difference in China. There is a very candid and upfront attitude. 
Much of these experiences are similar to the ones that Africans experience in Hong Kong also. But arguably in Hong Kong there is also less fascination and a much more abrupt interruption of social distance and discrimination.
It reminds me of Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks, "look mum a negro girl". Zahra has had to constantly navigate being exotic whilst also being in an emic position. She speaks Mandarinm spent lost of time with a Chinese family and is able to understand the way she is analysed and discussed in everyday encounters.
It is also interesting to note that in Chinese negative characters are used to represent Africa. My friend Kirk who passed me the story says that Western countries have more positive names.

    On being African in China

    Zahra Baitie writes a candid piece about her experience of being an Africa n student in China. Many of the stories she recounts are familiar. The acceptance that Zahra provides of the way in which she is dealt with is both refreshing and telling of the situation that she finds herself in.

    Much of what she talks about is a kind of everyday racism (Essed 1991), but it also underlines the very different way of talking about and confronting difference in China. There is a very candid and upfront attitude. 

    Much of these experiences are similar to the ones that Africans experience in Hong Kong also. But arguably in Hong Kong there is also less fascination and a much more abrupt interruption of social distance and discrimination.

    It reminds me of Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks, "look mum a negro girl". Zahra has had to constantly navigate being exotic whilst also being in an emic position. She speaks Mandarinm spent lost of time with a Chinese family and is able to understand the way she is analysed and discussed in everyday encounters.

    It is also interesting to note that in Chinese negative characters are used to represent Africa. My friend Kirk who passed me the story says that Western countries have more positive names.

     
     
  4. There is an alarming paucity of positive representations of Muslims in the media. When we look at the British media this is distinct. As Hopkins (2009:36) notes “When Muslims are not being represented through negative images and discourses they tend to be absent.” It also seems to be that the BBC are increasingly aware of this and are consciously making efforts in their reportage to redress the situation.

    So, a story like this one is really quite welcome. It portrays not only the York Mosque in a very positive light, but it also redresses the overall picture that people with opposing views are unable to accommodate each other. It is all the more apposite with York’s grizzly history of anti semitism in 1190.

    What is also so interesting about this story is that it is couched in all of the things that a textbook might tell you to do in order to appease and disarm and Englishman. Bring tea and biscuits, talk about football. I can’t help but think that there was a decent amount of banter about that day’s weather too. So the EDL were disarmed with a cultural reflection? This story is also interesting because the very positive appraisal offered of the event comes from a Christian voice, that of Archbishop John Sentamu who is Ugandan. He has voiced criticism of multiculturalism as it is acted out in the UK, and claimed that the BBC is anxious about reporting negative stories on Muslims…so we have now come full circle.

     
     
  5. Thanks for the tip from chisamisa this is well worth a read.

     
     
  6. Hong Kong not so racist after all
Over the weekend I was called up to make a comment on this story for the SCMP. Whilst on the run I said that I didn’t think it was a fair reflection on Hong Kong as it is today. Now the news notes the statistics were wrongly assessed. We have some reflection here.
So now people are thinking Hong Kong isn’t that racist. It again seems that  so much quality information is lost in the fumble for quick statistics and soundbites. As academics we spend a painstaking amount of time trying to give a balanced insight into the data available to us. We strive not to make kneejerk reactions and we tend to agonise that our comments are being taken too generally.
In the social media age, with tweets and blog postings, the visibility of the academic is encouraged. Yet like quick-to-the-press stories, we must strive to maintain credibility. Having a bang up to date media that is constantly reacting to second and third hand stories is not as valuable as having information you can rely on.

    Hong Kong not so racist after all

    Over the weekend I was called up to make a comment on this story for the SCMP. Whilst on the run I said that I didn’t think it was a fair reflection on Hong Kong as it is today. Now the news notes the statistics were wrongly assessed. We have some reflection here.

    So now people are thinking Hong Kong isn’t that racist. It again seems that  so much quality information is lost in the fumble for quick statistics and soundbites. As academics we spend a painstaking amount of time trying to give a balanced insight into the data available to us. We strive not to make kneejerk reactions and we tend to agonise that our comments are being taken too generally.

    In the social media age, with tweets and blog postings, the visibility of the academic is encouraged. Yet like quick-to-the-press stories, we must strive to maintain credibility. Having a bang up to date media that is constantly reacting to second and third hand stories is not as valuable as having information you can rely on.

     
     
  7. Back to the old question, ‘why are Hong Kong people so racist?’

    This articles gives an overview about the basics but doesn’t get to the key issue. One of the reasons people in Hong Kong are so prejudiced towards other ‘races’ is because they are perceived to come from poorer countries. They are considered less wealthy, less educated, and less cultured. It tends to be the case that we are prejudiced towards others when we believe that they are unlike, or opposed to us. This is one of the reasons Hong Kongers have such a prejudice towards different races.

    What is so intriguing about this study is that it paints a very poor picture of Hong Kong. Yet one of the things people value and admire about Hong Kong is its freedom and safety. So whilst people in Hong Kong might hold these values, racial crime is all but not existent. people do not get attacked in the street because of their ethnicity or sexuality. There therefore needs to be much greater scrutiny of studies such as this. Who do they suggest are the most tolerant? The US, Australia, and Northern Europe. Let us ask if that really is the case. Do we really need to look at how diverse living conditions are in the UK or in US cities? Platitudes about saying who you want to live next to, they say very little about how much individuals really mix, and how they behave when they do.

     
     
  8. Gweilo Moments

    After many years the phrase gweilo has developed a particular set of meanings to me. Many people I know will refer to themselves with ease, and without a sense of irony, as ‘gweilo’. 

    When my first son was born I became accustomed to chatting to some local old ladies around Happy Valley who would stop and chat. Often saying “Leng jai”, or “Ho dak yee”. I wasn’t too surprised one day when one old lady in our apartment block sniggered at my son, smoothed his hair and muttered “gwai Jai” (鬼仔). I worked out what it meant and offered it in conversation with one of the nearby workmen. He was immediately appalled by my use of the phrase and told me never to use it again. He asked where I had got it from in an aghast paternal fashion, and said that the old lady was very wrong to use the term. I was a little perplexed at his reaction.

    Just the other week I asked an English friend who has lived in Hong Kong for the last decade if she regarded herself as a gweilo. Quite surprisingly she became both uncomfortable with the term and the question. She told me that none of her friends used the term, and that in fact, she had not heard it for a very long time.

    So I decided to ask my African friends in Chungking Mansions what they thought of the term. Some were unfamiliar with it, and some immediately criticised white people who self identified as gweilos. They certainly didn’t like to self identify as hakgwei, and that white people should not adopt gweilo either. The argument being that these people were ignorant, and placing themselves in a position that trivialised negative and crude racial monikers.

    But then a mainland friend said that he thought the term was given too much importance and that people should not be offended by its use.

    One of the issues with the acceptance of the label by white people in Hong Kong is that they can use it without having to get into the deeper politics of race and identity.  White people are still privileged and whilst they have a minority identity, they do not have a marginal identity. It is in some ways relating to white privilege, but it also is a nod towards a local identity, an acceptance of Hong Kong’s more straightforward and abrupt engagement with difference.

    In my current research it is very interesting to see how many people self identify as gweilo. But more on that in time.

    So I turn to this song "Gweilo Moments" on the HongWrong blog which could basically be summarised as “White People Problems in Hong Kong”. It plays on the notion that being a gweilo in Hong Kong makes you privy to a whole bunch of minor irritations, and that basically it is only gweilos who get bothered by them. It posits that making a fuss about being pushed out of the way, someone not holding a door for you, or other trivial matters seems to be the hallmark of gweilo self identification. Make of the song what you will.

     
     
  9. Time Out HK has a new feature about racism in Hong Kong.
Check it out, they are covering it from a few different angles.

    Time Out HK has a new feature about racism in Hong Kong.

    Check it out, they are covering it from a few different angles.

     
     
  10. 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.