AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 217

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Session 217: Port Cities I

Cultural China at the Margin of the Nation-State: A Hong Kong Poetry Society in the 1950s
Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu, University of California, Davis, USA

This paper is a study of an influential poetry society and its leading members in Hong Kong in the 1950s--“Solidarity Society” (a loose translation of “jian she”坚社). Members of this group wrote classical Chinese ci poetry. These poets include such figures as Liao Entao, Liu Jingtang, Lin Ruhang, Zeng Xiying, Luo Kanglie, Wang Shaosheng, Tang Dinghua, and others. Although this poetry group has been arguably the most renowned society of classical Chinese poetry in the history of Hong Kong literature, it has been little known outside Hong Kong. I will demonstrate that this poetry group could have only thrived in the relatively lax political atmosphere of Hong Kong at the beginning years of the standoff between socialist mainland China and Nationalist (KMT) Taiwan in the Cold War era. Due to their “politically incorrect” stance and past history, some of its members (mostly émigré poets from the mainland) could not have stayed in either China or Taiwan at the time. Hong Kong’s unique political and cultural ambiance thus fostered a more worldly and cosmopolitan poetry beyond the immediate restrictions of the modern Chinese nation-state. The 1950s were such a special period of Hong Kong history when poets, artists, filmmakers, and cultural workers of different political inclinations could all voice their ideas and thus contribute to the flourish of a broad “cultural China.”

The Periphery of Empire: Japanese Culture in Shantou (1904-1945)
Lin-yi Tseng, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA

Shantou is a city on the east coast of Guangdong Province, China. In the mid-nineteenth century, Shantou was opened as a treaty port for foreign trade according to the Treaty of Tianjin. Thereafter, Western merchants, including British, Americans, French, and Germans, conducted business in this port city, and Shantou became one of the most international cities in China. Along with such foreign powers, Japan established a consulate in Shantou in the early twentieth century. Accompanying the establishment of banks, schools, stores, and even religious institutions was Japan’s exertion of significant influences in this new territory. In this paper, I want to put the discussion in a transnational framework by exploring the question of how Japanese culture was created and delivered in Shantou, and how Japanese perceived Shantou both as a geographical periphery of the Japanese empire and meanwhile as an entity possessing significant economic, political, and cultural meaning. My sources will include newspapers, official documents of the Foreign Ministry of Japan, reports of Japanese entrepreneurs, personal travelogues, and maps.

Human Rights as Legal-Cultural Struggles: The Case of "Harborcide"
John Nguyet Erni, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

This paper takes the crisis of urban pollution in Hong Kong as a starting point to argue that the source of environmental degradation in fact centers on excessive and large-scale land reclamation and zoning practices, which over time have decimated the only natural open-space and wind channel at the heart of the city: the Victoria Harbor. In recent times, the intensification of this urban disaster – a pervasive multimodal environmental crisis – has called for not only stringent policy changes and collective civil actions, but also a hard look at the effectiveness of relevant environmental laws. Further, the persistent pollution of the senses, it is argued here, presents a critical focus for the legal landscape. The Protection of the Harbor Ordinance (Harbor Bill) is to date the only piece of comprehensive legislation in Hong Kong for the regulation of land reclamation of the Harbor. It is a strong preservationist law. But how do we assess the usefulness and impact of the Harbor Bill? What is the relation between this law and the sensory impact of harbor disappearance as a cultural crisis? To what extent can the Harbor Bill work toward a “sensory justice” leveled not only on the ground of environmental protection, but also upon a sensory restoration of an “embodied citizenship”? This essay looks at the “sensory jurisprudence” enabled by the Harbor Bill, and paves the way for a consideration of an alternative, more embodied, environmental legal apparatus that can better address, activate, and preserve the “sensory imaginary” of the Harbor.

Behind the Boom: Hong Kong in the Rise of Chinese Flm Idustry
Katherine Chu, California State University, Dominguez Hills, USA

China’s film industry has boom in recent years. The box-office revenues have soared from RMB $130 million (US $19 million) in 1993 to RMB $6.2 billion (US $909 million) in 2009. The number of feature film productions increased from 87 in 1998 to 456 in 2009, which made China become the third largest world film production center, only surpassed by Bollywood and Hollywood, and the biggest film producer in Asia. One of the explanations for the success of Chinese film industry is the film reform made China become a magnet for foreign capital in the Chinese-language regions. Hong Kong has now become the hub for accumulating capital for the Chinese film industry, especially after the signing of Close Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA). In 2005, among all the Chinese co-produced films, about 70% were from Hong Kong. In 2007, the figure raised to more than 80%. Perhaps most significant, those co-produced films all success in become box-office returns. Among the top 10 box-office Chinese movies in 2008, all of them are co-produced with Hong Kong. This paper thus attempts to examine the roles of Hong Kong in the rise of Chinese-language films industry. What is the current relationship between Hong Kong, mainland and broadly world film producers? How would we define “Hong Kong film industry”? Will co-produced films become the future or death of Hong Kong film industry?

From the Jianghu to the Noodle Factory, or Hope is Where the Fun is: Gender, Music, and Socializing Spaces in the Films of Tsui Hark
Tim Lee, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

The films of Hong Kong director, Tsui Hark have often been read as cinematic constructions of the mythical jianghu, a fantastic and imagined utopia situated beyond the familiarity of home. If the jianghu, as Stephen Ching-kiu Chan has argued, operates as an allegorical space constructed to articulate Hong Kong’s culture of “disillusionment, frustration and cynicism” in the years before and after the 1997-handover, then this paper examines how Tsui Hark reverses the fantastic space of the jianghu vis-à-vis gender in three of his works: Working Class (Dagung wongdai, 1985), Peking Opera Blues (Do ma daan, 1986) and The Lovers (Leung juk, 1994). In these films, spaces conventionally gendered as masculine, are transformed into sites of potential community through the intervention of women. In Peking Opera Blues and The Lovers, for instance, spaces such as the opera house and the classical academy, while located at the margins of a mainstream Chinese society, are shown as having their own epistemologies with which these women both negotiate and participate in whilst garbed in “male” clothing. In this fashion, they exist simultaneously as gender- and border-crossing subjects who enter into the margins so as to return and affect change in the mainstream societies from where they entered. Reading these films alongside Tsui’s Working Class, filmed and set in 1980s Hong Kong, I argue for a reading of Tsui Hark’s films as articulations of a gendered cultural imaginary that anticipates new forms of social community within the multiply disparate spaces that comprise metropolitan Hong Kong.