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Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance

Ackbar Abbas
Series: Public Worlds
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Hong Kong
    Book Description:

    In an intriguing and provocative exploration of its cinema, architecture, photography, and literature, Ackbar Abbas considers what Hong Kong can teach us about the future of both the colonial city and the global city.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8798-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction: Culture in a Space of Disappearance
    (pp. 1-15)

    Living in interesting times is a dubious advantage, in fact, a curse according to an old Chinese saying. Interesting times are periods of violent transitions and uncertainty. People in Hong Kong, faced with the prospect of 1997, clearly live in interesting times. The city’s history has always followed an unexpected course—from fishing village to British colony to global city to one of China’s Special Administrative Regions, from 1 July 1997, onward. “With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed,” Italo Calvino’s Marco Polo asserts, in a remark strikingly apropos of Hong Kong. “But even the...

  5. 2 The New Hong Kong Cinema and the Déjà Disparu
    (pp. 16-47)

    According to Gilles Deleuze, the various European cinemas became “odern” at different times, but always at the moment when they had to come up with new cinematic images in response to new historical situations: “The timing is something like: around 1948, Italy,-about 1958, France,-about 1968, Germany.”¹ We might now arguably add, going beyond Europe, about 1982, Hong Kong, which was the year of Margaret Thatcher’s visit to China. Since that date, it has become increasingly apparent that a new Hong Kong cinema has been emerging. It is both a popular cinema and a cinema of auteurs, with names like Ann...

  6. 3 Wong Kar-wai: Hong Kong Filmmaker
    (pp. 48-62)

    The argument in the previous chapter is that Hong Kong cinema both produces and is produced by a specific cultural space, and therefore our response to and evaluation of individual films have to take this into account. Moreover, it is a space of thedéjà disparu,of disappearance, one characteristic of which, particularly significant for cinema as well as for architecture, is the problematic nature of visuality. “That which is merely seen (and merely visible) is hard to see,” Henri Lefebvre notes about what he calls the “abstract space” of neocapitalism.¹ The point holds true for the space of the...

  7. 4 Building on Disappearance: Architecture and Colonial Space
    (pp. 63-90)

    The remark that Hong Kong reinvents itself every few years becomes credible quite credible when we look at the changing skyline of the Central District. This skyline may not yet rival that of New York or Chicago, but it is nonetheless highly impressive in its own way, with its growing number of signature buildings by international architects like Norman Foster, I. M. Pei and Paul Rudolf. Such a skyline not only underlines the domination of marketplace, with the architect’s signature functioning as a brand it also takes to an extreme Sharon Zukin’s argument that “market” crodes “place.”¹ The combination of...

  8. 5 Photographing Disappearance
    (pp. 91-110)

    Hong Kong is one of the world’s most photographed cities.

    It is not a matter of producing more or better photographs of Hong Kong,but of using the photograph as a means of seeing what is involved in looking thinking about the city.

    From this point of view, the project of photographing Hong Kong—disappearance—is related to the project of a Hong Kong and a Hong Kong architecture.

    The camera lens puts the city on the couch. The visual is a means of interrogating visuality: its puns and parapraxia. Not just an optical unconsciousa, a spatial unconscious as well.


  9. 6 Writing Hong Kong
    (pp. 111-140)

    To speak of “Writing Hong Kong” implies something different from speaking of “Hong Kong Writing,” even though it may sometimes be difficult to distinguish between them in any clear-cut way. The latter might involve embarking on a critical survey of local authors and of texts produced in and on Hong Kong. It would be concerned with discussing a wide and representative number of works, written mainly in Cantonese, that would define a corpus and lead to the establishment of a tradition of Hong Kong literature. It might even pose questions of identity like, what is a Hong Kong writer? or...

  10. 7 Coda: Hyphenation and Postculture
    (pp. 141-146)

    Hong Kong culture as something that engages the urgencies in the life of its people is a recent phenomenon. Its accelerated development in the last decade or so, I have been suggesting, is largely a response to a social and political situation that has few clear precedents. We need to say a word in conclusion about this nascent culture and the sociopolitical context out of which, necessarily, it has evolved. We can begin by taking some bearings from Frantz Fanon—although we may have to let them go and find different ones for ourselves almost immediately.

    Fanon located very precisely...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 147-150)
  12. Index
    (pp. 151-154)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 155-155)