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A History of Representation of Mainlanders in Hong Kong TV Dramas

Representation is a key concept to cultural studies. Who can be on TV? Do they represent diversity or stereotypes? Why? What will be the consequences? These are questions of aesthetics and politics. This study aims to write a critical history of representation of Chinese mainlanders in Hong Kong TV dramas (HDs, hereafter). From the lazy and imprisoned Ah Chian(阿燦, 《網中人》1979), to the well-educated and conniving Tian Mi (田蜜, 《不懂撒嬌的女人》2017), mainlander images have become more and more complicated, contingent, and contradictory. This representation has a symbolic power that has contributed to the public imaginations and to practices of Mainland-Hong Kong relations, as well as the Hong Kong identity. Ma (1999) and Gunn (2006) have found a dualism in several pre-1997 HDs: barbarian/civilized, other/us, mainlander/HongKonger, which contributes to constructing a Hong Kong identity. They are illuminating because this dualism continues to appear in post-1997 HDs; but they have not criticized the dark side of it: discrimination and symbolic violence. 

Year: 2021 - 2024

Project Leader -

Dr ZHOU Lulu

Spaces of Precarity: Migration, Spatiality and the Refugee Graphic Narrative

The refugee crisis of the 21st century is one of the most challenging the globe has faced; today more than an estimated 68 million people are displaced from their homes. Postcolonial and diaspora studies have been slow to respond to the need to reconceptualize theories of migration in the context of the new age of migration. The traditional articulations of diasporic identity formation are lacking in theorizing refugee identities characterized by statelessness, violence and precarity. The kinds of transnational affiliations that foster diasporic identity formations are often absent in the case of refugees on the move as are the engendering of hybrid and cosmopolitan identities so celebrated in diaspora studies

Year: 2021 - 2024

Project Leader -


A Japanese Zen Poet-monk’s Interpretation and Reimagining of Su Shi - A Study on Banri Shūkyū’s Shōmono-style Commentary Tenka haku [The Brightest of the World]

Su Shi is arguably one of imperial China’s most prominent drivers of the trend of amalgamating literature, art and religion, where his contributions have a special place in the history of the wider Sinosphere. Su was demoted and sent into exile in Huangzhou, and it can be argued that during this low period, his attempt to seek solace in tathāgatagarbha thought had a substantial impact on his literary and artistic works. But this Buddhist influence on Su’s compositions has been not sufficiently discussed among the many Song and Qing dynasty periods Chinese criticisms of his work, perhaps in part due to their authors’ strong affiliations with Confucianism. A different perspective of these works, however, can be found in a commentary written in Chinese by the poet-monk Banri Shūkyū, who flourished in Japan during the Muromachi period. Banri’s alternative perspective, presented in his Tenka haku (The Brightest of the World), was informed by his training as a Japanese Zen monk, scholar and poet, his exposure to different traditions of exegesis and training in art and literature, and personal experiences that in some ways echoed with those of Su Shi, including Banri’s experiencing regret and dejection at being compelled, when middle-aged, to renounce his vows and return to lay life.

Year: 2021 - 2023

Project Leader -

Dr SHANG Haifeng

A Study on Textual-Research Poetry in the Qianglong-Jiaqing Period: Data Collection and Framework

During two prosperous periods in the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong and Jiaqing, textual research was prevalent, and textual-research poetry became a widely popular art. The trend of writing textual research poetry arose, and such a trend was sustained for about one hundred years. This kind of poem was based on the textual-research of various cultural relics, which emphasized the selection of materials. Such poems were mostly written in ancient poetry or song style. Scholars of poetry history and criticism often criticized this act of "academic-stuffed poetry," believing that it damaged the image and lyrical characteristics of poetry. Such acts of treating poetry had always been rejected, and such rejection worried those who practised it in such a way that it eventually disappeared in the history of poetry. However, for such a kind of poetry that can flourish for a hundred years, it must have been sustained by various conditions. The grand narrative of poetry history alone cannot reflect its real value. After all, textual-research poetry was considered as cross-genre (Li-E and Hang Shi-jun of Zhejiang school, Weng Fang-gang of Jili school, Yuan Mei and Yang Fang-can of Xingling school), cross-regional (Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, etc.), cross-class (famous officials such as Wang Chang and Ji Yun, scholars such as Gui Fu and Huang Yi, commoner writers such as Huang Jingren, etc.). The poetry was widely known and distributed. Moreover, textual-research poetry appeared in the Qian-Jia period when the material culture was vibrant, where different "things/objects" contained different meanings in textual-research poems and literary circles. Aimed at examining the relationship between objects, humans, and literature, a new understanding of the value of poetry produced in the Qing Dynasty will become apparent after various research perspectives with specific case studies in this proposed study are completed.

Year: 2021 - 2023

Project Leader -

Dr YIP Cheuk Wai

The Lyrical Tradition in Hong Kong from the 1970s through the 1990s

During a panel on comparative literature at the Association for Asian Studies in 1971, Chen Shih-hsiang said that the “Chinese literary tradition as a whole is a lyrical tradition,” offering another perspective for interpreting the tradition. The Chinese lyrical tradition emphasizes expressing deep feelings (or embodying lyricism) in various art forms. Chen’s provocative pronouncement initiated debate within research communities in Greater China. Due to its unique historical background, Hong Kong’s lyrical works, which are different from those of mainland China and Taiwan, have not received the attention they deserve from academia. 

Year: 2021 - 2022

Project Leader -

Dr AU Chung To

Model and Changes: The Hymns, Imperial Edicts, and Writings on Etiquette and Rites between Qingli and Xifeng-with a Focus on Figures of Northern Song Reform of Poetry and Prose

From Qingli to Xiling and Yuanfeng (1041-1085), the political and literary reforms happened almost simultaneously. How to explain this phenomenon? The most prominent Wenren of Northern Song were not only literary figures, but also thought leaders of that time. In an era of changes, how did they pass on Siwen through a more comprehensive form of Wen based on their philosophies and set a model for the world? In response to these questions, this research is aims to probe the connections between ‘Wen-Dao’, ‘imperial edicts’, and ‘etiquette’ in the Northern Song Dynasty.

Year: 2020 - 2022

Project Leader -

Dr FUNG Chi Wang

Disappearing Voices: An Oral History of Leftist Film Workers during Cold War Hong Kong

This oral history project aims to document the voices of Hong Kong leftist film workers who were active from 1949 to 1966 and to utilize their voices to reconstruct Cold War Hong Kong history. The principal investigator adopts the common usage of the term “leftist” during this era, defining leftist film workers as those who worked for the three major leftist film studios and the sole distributor of films made in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Until the mid-1960s, leftists controlled a significant share of the Hong Kong film market, produced popular movies and exported their productions and PRC-made films to other Chinese communities

Year: 2017 - 2021

Project Leader -

Dr HUI Kwok Wai

Wig: The Global History of a Cold War Commodity, 1958-1979

“Wig: The Global History of a Cold War Commodity, 1958-1979,” examines Asia’s “miraculous” economic growth under the US Cold War umbrella by tracing the “life” of a strange commodity: the human-hair and synthetic-fiber wig. In the 1960s-70s, wigs became a key Cold War commodity in Asia: the #2 export in South Korea, employing over 40,000 people; the #4 export in Hong Kong, employing 30,000; and a state-supported industry in India and Singapore. By the 1970s, when 40% of US women wore wigs or hairpieces, the wig was a US$1 billion global industry, dominated by Asian wigmakers and Korean-American wig retailers. But while no one intended for wigs to fuel Asian industrialization and globalization, the rise of wigs was not an accident. The wig became a Cold War commodity in 1965, when the US extended its 1950 trade embargo against China to include communist “Asiatic” hair – cutting off China’s US$10 million hair trade to punish its escalation of the Vietnam War. This seemingly minor intervention had major consequences: by restricting trade in communist hair, the embargo devastated Hong Kong’s wig industry (which relied on Chinese hair) and jumpstarted South Korea’s industry (since the ROK harvested its own “anti-communist” hair). And as Asian wigmakers scrambled to find new, ideologically acceptable hair sources, they produced a complex map of the Cold War Asia-Pacific: hair was smuggled from China to Hong Kong through Indonesia, and flown from non-aligned India to US-allied South Korea. Wigs thus reveal how Asian export-led industrialization took shape under and beyond US Cold War influence. This project introduces global and interdisciplinary approaches to studying Cold War history. By examining how wigs moved, we understand Asian growth differently: seeing how Asia’s industrialization was shaped not only by Cold War politico-economics but also by ordinary people, from bureaucrats and factory workers to hair peddlers and wig-wearers. The project thus makes a methodological intervention in two growing fields of history, the history of capitalism and global history, by combining “top down” (diplomatic history, political history, economic history) and “bottom up” (social history, labor history, material culture) approaches, producing a thick, transnational approach to global history. “Wig” will yield a book proposal, conference presentations, a journal article, and a complete book draft. To create impact beyond academia, project findings will be used to produce multilingual global history teaching materials, which will be disseminated locally and through a web site for educators around the world.

Year: 2021 - 2025

Project Leader -

Dr PETRULIS Jason Todd

Redressing Atrocities: Forms of Reconciliation in Postcolonial Southeast Asian Literature

Redressing Atrocities: Forms of Reconciliation in Postcolonial Southeast Asian Literature This project offers a critical exposition of reconciliation in postcolonial Southeast Asian literature in English. It considers how literary forms are used as a medium to explore reparative possibilities for past and present conflicts in Southeast Asia. How might we read Anglophone Southeast Asian literature and critically frame the apparent lure of reconciliation for postcolonial Southeast Asia? How do these texts register reparative desires in their literary strategies, narrative shapes, and formal structures? What aesthetic, ethical, and epistemological roles do literary imaginations perform in present-day conflict-ridden spaces around the world? Though reconciliation assumes a prominent status in public discourses and transitional justice mechanisms such as Truth and Reconciliation Commissions globally, it has yet to attain sustained discussion in the literary humanities. This is particularly so in postcolonial critical discourses which have often stressed the ethical value of resistance and viewed reconciliation with suspicion. While some postcolonial scholars have begun to examine the complexity of reconciliation in recent years, they have hitherto tended to overlook the remedial potential of English-language Southeast Asian narratives. As a first attempt to address these critical lacunae, this proposed ECS project seeks to reclaim the vocabulary of reconciliation for postcolonial studies and shift the field’s geographical ambit from the dominant sites of Canada, South Africa, Australia to the often neglected Southeast Asia. In particular, the project examines a corpus of Anglophone Southeast Asian literature on four conflicts: Tan Twan Eng’s novel on the Japanese occupation of Malaya, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s short story collection on the war in Vietnam, Vaddey Ratner’s literary memoir on the Cambodian genocide, and the recent poetry on the Rohingya crisis. This proposed project argues that by addressing atrocities and their aftermaths, the selected postcolonial Southeast Asian texts thematically and formally register an ethics of reconciliation. Such literary expressions seek to redress injustices and repair injured communities within and beyond Southeast Asia, despite the acknowledged enormity, if not impossibility, of the task. Contrary to its often reductive representation in governmental policies and legal avenues, reconciliation as articulated in the selected aesthetic forms captures the paradoxes, partiality, and cultural-historical embeddedness of reparative work. All four cases consider the possibility of reconciliation and the countervailing prospect of irreconcilability. Overall, this project demonstrates that Anglophone Southeast Asian literature makes an important contribution to rethinking reconciliation outside bureaucratic and legal-judicial domains.

Year: 2021 - 2024

Project Leader -

Dr TSE Yin Nga Kelly

Between Historicity and Imagination: Mutienzi Zhuan (The Travels of King Mu) and the Rise of Early Chinese Fictions

The prevalent theory traces the origins of Chinese fiction to the Wei and Jin Dynasties and considers the Tang Dynasty the time when they emerged fully fledged. With the advancement of archaeological works in China, this theory is gradually being challenged by excavated works of fiction dated to the Warring States and the Qin and Han periods. However, questions such as what are the stylistic features of early Chinese fiction and how did the fiction genre developed from that of historical writing remain to be answered. The purpose of this project is to focus on Mutienzi zhuan (The Travels of King Mu) to answer the above questions. As the earliest excavated text that survives into the modern age in Chinese history, our research on Mutienzi zhuan involves multiple aspects. We will start with a textual study of the text from a paleographical perspective, then move on to date its contents by comparing the text against documented bronze sources. The third step is to analyze the stylistic features of Mutienzi zhuan by comparing it with selected early fiction from other cultures, such as The Golden Ass, One Thousand and One Nights, and Mesopotamian mythologies, and to investigate the authorship, readership, transmission, and consumption of early Chinese fiction from a social perspective. The last step is to distinguish between the real and imagined geography in the text and reconstruct the transportation geography of King Mu’s travels using a historical geographical approach. It is hoped that this comprehensive research on Mutienzi zhuan will contribute to the study of Chinese paleography, history, geography and literature.

Year: 2017 - 2022

Project Leader -

Dr LEI Chin Hau