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Consuming Hong Kong

Consuming Hong Kong

Gordon Mathews
Tai-lok Lui
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Consuming Hong Kong
    Book Description:

    Consumption forms an essential part of Hong Kong people's lives today, but until now little serious attention has been paid to it. This book fills this gap, in a fascinating way. The contributors to this volume explore such topics as: - the coming of shopping malls to Hong Kong - tenants' senses of home in cramped public housing - the experiences of movie-going - alcohol as a marker of social class - the pursuit of fashion - Chinese art and identity among Hong Kong collectors - the dream and reality of owning a flat - Lan Kwai Fong and its mystique - the McDonald's Snoopy craze of fall 1998 - cultural identity and consumption in Hong Kong today This book shows how the detailed ehtnographic study of consumption in Hong Kong can lead to a deeper understanding of Hong Kong life as a whole, as well as of consumption in the world at large.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-087-6
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Most past research on Hong Kong has been generally aimed to inform a diverse audience about the place and its people. Beginning in the 1950s, the aim of scholars and journalists who came to Hong Kong was to study China, which had not yet opened its doors to fieldwork by outsiders. Accordingly, the relevance of Hong Kong was limited to its status as a society adjacent to mainland China. After the opening of China, research on Hong Kong shifted focus towards colonial legitimacy and the return of sovereignty. Thus, the disciplined study of Hong Kong was hindered for almost half...

  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Map
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. A Note on Cantonese Romanization
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    Gordon Mathews and Tai-lok Lui

    Consumption forms a critical part of Hong Kong people’s lives today, but it is extraordinary how little academic attention has been paid to consumption in Hong Kong. In the years before and after Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese rule, hundreds of books and articles have been published that explore the political, legal, economic and social aspects of the hand-over. Many of these books and articles are valuable, and provide interesting and sometimes extraordinary insights. However, it is hard to avoid the conclusion, upon reading these works, that they fail to touch upon areas of Hong Kong that are far more...

  8. 1 The Mailing of Hong Kong
    (pp. 23-46)
    Tai-lok Lui

    Hong Kong has, in recent years, been famous for what it can offer to satisfy the appetites and desires of tourists and keen shoppers. Shopping in Hong Kong, so well put by Gershman, is ‘a serious sport’. Hong Kong is renowned for its status as a shoppers’ paradise. For bargain hunters as well as brand-name followers, Hong Kong always seems to have something to offer. Indeed, Hong Kong has earned its reputation for being a shoppers’ paradise in international tourism since the early post-war years. In the Hong Kong Guide, published in 1953, Hong Kong was described as a ‘shopping...

  9. 2 Making House into Home: Interior Design in Hong Kong Public Housing
    (pp. 47-80)
    Nuala Rooney

    One of the most popular tours offered by the Hong Kong Tourist Association is the Family Insight Tour. Tourists sign up for a sight most visitors, and many expatriates and wealthy Chinese living in Hong Kong, rarely see: the inside of a 180- to 300-square-foot Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA) single-room flat. The HKHA is Hong Kong’s biggest landlord. Currently it accommodates approximately 2.3 million people, in 670,000 public rental flats, or 35% of the population.² The one-room-style flats — the older design of HKHA flats, which many tenants of Hong Kong public housing continue to live within — may be home...

  10. 3 Consuming Cinema: Reflections on Movies and Market-places in Contemporary Hong Kong
    (pp. 81-116)
    Cindy Hing-yuk Wong and Gary W. McDonogh

    In his memoir, Screening History, novelist Gore Vidal recapitulates twentieth-century American life through his experiences of movies. His evocative memories of Washington-DC theatres in the 1930s convey intersecting messages about history, society and cinema:

    Although many of the movie palaces of my Washington youth no longer exist, I can still see and smell them in memory. There was Keith’s, across from the Treasury, a former vaudeville house where Woodrow Wilson used to go. Architecturally, Keith’s was a bit too classically spacious for my taste. Also, the movies tended to be more stately than the ones to be seen around the...

  11. 4 The Hierarchy of Drinks: Alcohol and Social Class in Hong Kong
    (pp. 117-140)
    Eric Kif-wai Ma

    Raymond Williams (1985) coined the term ‘structure of feeling’ to refer to the shared values, practices, and sentiments of a society in a particular historical period. The term is quite elusive and a bit metaphorical. Yet it points nicely to the linkage between the emotive and structural aspects of culture, no matter how fluid these linkages may sometimes be. The term also goes with Williams’ methodological advice: culture can be studied by collecting and interpreting ethnographic details of daily routines. Along this line, I want to engage in this chapter in the analysis of Hong Kong culture by exploring the...

  12. 5 Shopping for Fashion in Hong Kong
    (pp. 141-172)
    Annie Hau-nung Chan

    In this chapter, I attempt to make some sense of the modern consumer’s experience of fashion shopping in contemporary Hong Kong. After outlining a brief history of the development of fashion in Hong Kong, I assess theories of fashion in terms of their implications for consumers. Using three case studies of women shopping for fashion, I then discuss the possible meanings of fashion consumption for a particular type of women shopper. I argue that even though theories built around concepts such as the fashion system, the capitalist world-economy, and Eurocentrisrn are useful in helping us understand the historical development of...

  13. 6 The Sense of Things: Chinese Art in the Lives of Hong Kong Collectors and Connoisseurs
    (pp. 173-204)
    Eric Otto Wear

    In this chapter, I explore the complex meanings of collecting Chinese art for Hong Kong collectors and connoisseurs. Hong Kong is not often noted for art collecting, yet it is a fascinating place in which to examine the practice, both because of its new-found wealth over recent decades (making the collecting of art a relatively new activity for many Hong Kong Chinese), and because of its cultural position as an entrepôt between China and the West and yet culturally partaking fully of neither. In this chapter, I first address who Hong Kong collectors are, and explore the meaning of collecting...

  14. 7 Consuming a Dream: Homes in Advertisements and Imagination in Contemporary Hong Kong
    (pp. 205-236)
    Helen Hau-ling Cheng

    In Hong Kong, when we read Chinese-language newspapers such as Ming Pao or Sing Tao Daily, the first thing we may notice is a half-page advertisement on the front page, selling a new property development. This may be quite amazing to those who are new to Hong Kong: perhaps nowhere else in the world does the front page of the newspaper, which in most places is devoted to the most important news of the day, lend itself instead to property advertising.

    When we look over these advertisements, we find something even more interesting: these advertisements, for the most part, do...

  15. 8 Consuming Places in Hong Kong: Experiencing Lan Kwai Fong
    (pp. 237-262)
    Sea-ling Cheng

    Lan Kwai Fong 蘭桂坊 has been an icon of cosmopolitan consumption in Hong Kong since the 1980s. Cartographically, Lan Kwai Fong is simply an L-shaped lane in downtown Hong Kong, not far from the Central business district on Hong Kong Island. Culturally, however, Lan Kwai Fong is a powerful symbol for the study of Hong Kong’s emergence and contemporary diversity as a cosmopolitan city.

    The three words ‘Lan Kwai Fong’ have the power to incite a mixture of feelings among Hong Kong Chinese — admiration, excitement, fear, disgust and jealousy, just to name a few of those feelings. The images that...

  16. 9 The McDonald’s Snoopy Craze in Hong Kong
    (pp. 263-286)
    Joseph Bosco

    In late September 1998, a craze for three-inch-tall plastic Snoopy dolls engulfed Hong Kong. Starting on 25 September, long lines formed outside each of Hong Kong’s 147 McDonald’s restaurants, which were offering each day a Snoopy doll dressed in a different national costume. That day customers were queuing up to buy a Snoopy doll dressed in Mexican garb and wearing a sombrero. Many restaurants sold out quickly; in some cases, fights broke out over queue-jumping and the shortage of dolls, and McDonald’s called in the police to maintain order. On 29 September, a McDonald’s in Wan Chai sold out its...

  17. 10 Cultural Identity and Consumption in Post-Colonial Hong Kong
    (pp. 287-318)
    Gordon Mathews

    The title of this chapter may seen odd at first glance: does cultural identity have any relation to consumption? I argue that there is indeed a relation, a relation whose explication can tell us much about Hong Kong today. Hong Kong people are divided, surveys show, between seeing themselves primarily as ‘Chinese’ or primarily as ‘Hongkongese’. In this chapter, I will explore at length what these designations mean: I will argue that they are linked to the idea of belonging to a particular culture and nation, on the one hand, and of being a consumer in the global ‘cultural supermarket’,...

  18. Glossary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization
    (pp. 319-330)
  19. Index
    (pp. 331-340)