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Hong Kong: Migrant Lives, Landscapes, and Journeys

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In 1997 the United Kingdom returned control of Hong Kong to China, ending the city’s status as one of the last remnants of the British Empire and initiating a new phase for it as both a modern city and a hub for global migrations. Hong Kong is a tour of the city’s postcolonial urban landscape, innovatively told through fieldwork and photography.

Caroline Knowles and Douglas Harper’s point of entry into Hong Kong is the unusual position of the British expatriates who chose to remain in the city after the transition. Now a relatively insignificant presence, British migrants in Hong Kong have become intimately connected with another small minority group there: immigrants from Southeast Asia. The lives, journeys, and stories of these two groups bring to life a place where the past continues to resonate for all its residents, even as the city hurtles forward into a future marked by transience and transition. By skillfully blending ethnographic and visual approaches, Hong Kong offers a fascinating guide to a city that is at once unique in its recent history and exemplary of our globalized present.

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Editorial Reviews

Vered Amit

“Knowles and Harper have brought the postcolonial down to earth in this poignant portrait of the intersections between migrants of diverse origins and circumstances residing in Hong Kong. Their study reminds us that the most privileged migrants are not necessarily the most ‘skilled’ at connecting with difference. This is a major and highly innovative contribution to our understanding of contemporary forms of migration.”
Jon Wagner

“This is a terrific book by a pair of creative, smart, and thoughtful scholars who have a lot to say and a lot to show and tell. Through superb fieldwork, effective use of complementary data, clear prose, and evocative photographs, Knowles and Harper have created an extraordinarily rich account of how and where immigrant experiences intersect with Hong Kong social structure.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226448572
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Series: Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Caroline Knowles is professor of sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of Race and Social Analysis. Douglas Harper is professor of sociology at Duquesne University and the author of Changing Works: Visions of a Lost Agriculture.

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Table of Contents



     Arriving in Hong Kong
     Framing Migration
     Framing Migrants
     Framing Hong Kong Chineseness
     Framing Whiteness
     Framing Empire and After
     Framing the Investigation
     Arranging the Dead
     Soldiering On
     Drying the Flag


     An Ordinary Life(style)
     Day-trip to Shenzhen
     Inside the Expatriate Bubble
     Fabricating the City
     Moving On

     The Schools and Language Game
     Trading Places

     Riding the Waves
     Managing Dis/Location
     Island Life
     "Britain Saddens Me"
     Lifestyle Migration
     The Baby


     Corporate Lives/Wives
     The United States and the Matrix of Global Dominance
     "Choosers and Loosers"
     Chungking Mansions
     Central Kowloon Mosque
     Indian Food


     The Peak
     Ladies Who Lunch


     Serving-Class Migrants
     Living inside Others' Lives
     Sundays in Statue Square
     Relationships in the Philippines
     Routes Out


     Night and Day in Wanchai
     Wanchai Warriors
     The "Girlies"

     Club Scenes
     United Services Recreation Club
     Poolside with the Vicars's Wife
     Poolside with the Diver
     "It's time to pack up and go home"
     Kowloon Cricket Club



     Bringing it All Back Home


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