Zhu Yaowei (ed.) 朱耀伟主编
Hong Kong: Chung Hwa Book Co. 中华书局, 2016.
Reviewed by Chen Liangdong (PhD candidate of Beijing Normal University, HYI Visiting Fellow）
The discourse “as method” has become a method. From Asia as method (Yoshimi Takeuchi), China as method (Mizoguchi Yuzo), to Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Chen Kuan-hsing), and then to this collection of essays Hong Kong Studies as Method.
Hong Kong Studies as Method includes seventeen influential articles on Hong Kong studies in recent years, exploring various possibilities for Hong Kong studies. Dedicated to capturing the plentiful experience accumulated in the “culture translation,” it demonstrates the continuous changes in Hong Kong over the years, presenting the hybrid nature of Hong Kong culture.
The book begins by pointing out the dilemma of Hong Kong and Hong Kong studies. Hong Kong’s “in-between-ness” provided the flexibility to write freely between Chinese and Western cultures, the ability to hybrid different cultures, and to interpret Chinese and Western cultures from different perspectives. However, with China’s opening policy and the rapid development of mainland cities, China is actively embracing the world. Hong Kong’s “in-between-ness” feature, that is, the advantage of being in a relationship between China and the world, is not as good as in the past. This brings identity anxiety in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong academia, due to the internationalization of academic publications and a growing tendency to focus on China issues, local research in Hong Kong has been marginalized, and it is difficult to express the “Hong Kong story.” From this, the editor summarizes three research aspects: whose Hong Kong, which method, and local and hybrid, which constitute the three chapters of the book.
This book explores different possibilities of “Hong Kong” with the question of “whose Hong Kong.” There is a brief review of Hong Kong’s history from a small fishing village to a cosmopolitan city, and then from a capitalist cosmopolitan city back to a communist motherland. It points out that the handover of Hong Kong and the rise of China have fundamentally changed the way of life of Hong Kong people. Globalization, sovereign state, special administrative regions, and subjectivity of Hong Kong have become the four dimensions of writing about Hong Kong. The property of “Hong Kong” is fluid, and the identity of Hong Kong must continue to be written between China and the West or outside and find self-space in the “in-between-ness” position.
Then, on “which method”, the book presents different approaches and perspectives of Hong Kong studies. Starting with an interdisciplinary approach to cultural studies, this chapter collects perspectives from scholars in diverse fields, including Hong Kong modernity, literary history, Hong Kong-style China studies, independent film, fandom, and slum studies. At the same time, breaking the distinction between academic and non-academic, combining popular culture with academic research, and advocating diverse perspectives has also become a method. Furthermore, Hong Kong cultural studies must adhere to its own characteristics, and consciously maintain the tradition of Chinese academic creation in the academic landscape where English is dominant. Therefore, a “new local discourse” with a strong sense of self-criticism is taking shape.
Finally, the book refocuses on “local and hybrid”, and then considers the “local” of Hong Kong, hoping to glimpse the changing subject identity in the context of “Hong Kong studies as method”. Hong Kong’s culture is hybridization, and the locality of Hong Kong means hybridity, which is also a manifestation of Hong Kong’s subjectivity. While emphasizing locality, it points out the need to be wary of romanticizing and narrowing the discourse on local culture.
As a collection of articles, the book has yet to form a systematic theoretical paradigm. However, the diverse perspectives presented in these seventeen articles also provide an open-ended approach to Hong Kong research.