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In Session: Minor Memories, Encounters, and Affects in (Inter-)Asia and the Transpacific
3: War, Migration, and Identity: A Chinese Vietnamese “Problem” in Hong Kong 70s
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
Simon Fraser University, Canada
In the academic debates on Hong Kong’s economic, political and cultural future, the idea of “local” becomes a contested site for different narratives. However, few scholars discuss how the historical emergence of a local Hong Kong needs to be situated in trans-local contexts. I propose to read Hong Kong as a relational place that is shaped by both entangled empires and minor encounters among other Asian regions. Specifically, this paper examines Hong Kong-based film director Ann Hui’s Boy from Vietnam (1978). By analyzing the cinematic and aesthetic forms of Hui’s early TV episode, this paper conveys two interrelated arguments. First, produced in a time that is now coined as the beginning of Hong Kong’s local awareness, Boy indicates that imperial wars, settler colonialisms, trans-regional migrations, population mingling, and economic-cultural exchanges have always been shaping Hong Kong’s local identity formation. It explores how to read Hong Kong 70s’ as a continuation of the city’s long migration history, which has always been an integral part to the common history of Asia. Second, merging Hoa people (Chinese Vietnamese), (il)legal immigrant, and Vietnamese refugee wannabe into one character, Boy further suggests that although identity politics gradually replaces heterogeneous identification processes as Hong Kong’s borders are hardening, border subjects always strive for cutting through the geopolitical boundaries imposed on them. Such efforts, despite their results, destabilize the concept of border and redefine cross-border activities not with legality designed by the nation-states but with cultural legitimacy emerged in the long migration practice.