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Coming of age in Hong Kong: a study of a colonial literary field in the 1950s

English title Coming of age in Hong Kong: a study of a colonial literary field in the 1950s
Applicant Riemenschnitter Andrea
Number 153590
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Ostasiatisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Other languages and literature
Start/End 01.05.2014 - 30.04.2017
Approved amount 180'475.00
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Keywords (9)

Hong Kong; Bildungsroman; novel of transformation; southbound literati; colonial literature; colonial city; literary field; coming-of-age; 1950s

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Hongkongs vielschichtige Kulturgeschichte fand bisher international nur wenig wissenschaftliche Beachtung. Ziel dieses Projekts ist die Untersuchung eines Textkorpus sinophoner Bildungsromane, der als paradigmatisch für die literarische Produktion im kolonialen Hongkong betrachtet werden kann und dessen Autoren um die Zeit der Gründung der VR China (1949) von dort nach Hongkong übersiedelten.
Lay summary

In den 1950er Jahren erfuhr Hongkong einen beispiellosen Zustrom von Flüchtlingen, darunter auch viele Intellektuelle. Diese southbound literati mussten sich mit Gelegenheitsarbeiten ihren Lebensunterhalt erwirtschaften, bevor sie ihre vormaligen kulturellen Tätigkeiten wieder aufnehmen konnten: schon bald publizierten sie wieder und gründeten selbst Zeitungen, Zeitschriften sowie kleinere Verlage. In der politisch wie ökonomisch angespannten Atmosphäre der 50er Jahre begegneten sie kolonialer Arroganz, den Ängsten und Feindseligkeiten des Kalten Krieges sowie einem Nebeneinander von divergierenden Orientierungen, Normen und Werten. Dieses Projekt untersucht, wie solche Erfahrungen in Adoleszenz-Erzählungen ausgehandelt wurden, deren Ursprung in der kulturellen Modernisierungsbewegung des Vierten Mai (1919-1937) liegt. Unsere Textauswahl soll mit den Methoden der Erzähltheorie, Sozialgeschichte und Diskursanalyse untersucht werden und Aufschluss darüber geben, wie eine Tradition chinesischer Bildungsromane an anderem Ort fortgesetzt und modifiziert wurde.

Wir erhoffen uns Einsicht in die Verflechtungen zwischen globalen und lokalen Machtfaktoren, welche an den Rändern des britischen Imperiums und des chinesischen Nationalstaats die Bildung einer alternativen Moderne ermöglichten. Der Fokus auf die gesellschaftlichen Widersprüche vor Ort – beispielsweise zwischen kolonialer Ausschliessung und kapitalistischen Erfolgsgeschichten, Revolution und Restauration, Überlebenskämpfen und ästhetischen Experimenten, persönlichen Krisen und sozialer Fragmentierung – wird einen substantiellen Beitrag zur Geschichte Hongkongs als kultureller Kontaktzone leisten. Darüber hinaus hinterfragt das Projekt den Genrebegriff für eine globalisierte literarische Ausdrucksform, die ihrem europäischen Vorbild zwar viel verdankt, im Kontext vergleichbarer post-/kolonialer Studien aber womöglich treffender als Transformations-Roman bezeichnet werden könnte.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 27.04.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
The Center for Humanities Research Hongkong (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Coming of Age in Sinophone Studies Talk given at a conference New Dreams of Red Mansions: Coming of Age Narratives from Post-/Socialist China 23.03.2017 Zürich, Switzerland Riemenschnitter Andrea;
Coming of Age in Sinophone Studies Talk given at a conference When Yangbanxi Meets Trans-regional 3D Cinema: Reimagining Socialist Bildungsroman in Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain 23.03.2017 Zürich, Switzerland Chu Kiu-wai;
Many Different Shores: Hong Kong Connections Across the South-East Asian Sinosphere Talk given at a conference Postcolonial Snakes and Mermaids: Eco-Ethics and World-Making in Hong Kong Fantasy Films 17.09.2016 Zürich, Switzerland Chu Kiu-wai;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Hong Kong and its Many Different Shores URPP Asia and Europe Bulletin International 2017

Awards

Title Year
Postdoc fellowship Western Sydney University 2017

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
173391 Coming of Age in Sinophone Studies 01.02.2017 International Exploratory Workshops

Abstract

Hong Kong's rich and multi-layered cultural history so far has not received much international scholarly attention. The major objective of this research is to investigate, as a paradigmatic segment of colonial Hong Kong's literary production, the body of sinophone coming-of-age narratives authored by refugees from mainland China who had relocated around the time of the establishment of the PRC in 1949 and frequently published their fiction in serial media installments.Since 1949 Hong Kong experienced an unprecedented influx of migrants, including many leading intellectuals from mainland China. This refugee crisis did not only bring spectacular growth to the city’s population, it also contributed to, and in fact shaped colonial Hong Kong's cultural life. Many among the immigrant intellectuals, locally identified as southbound literati, did not think of themselves as Hong Kong citizens, but waited to be able to move back home any time soon. Arriving in an unfamiliar and often hostile environment, they at first had to eke out a living by accepting underpaid odd jobs. Before long, however, they could resume their cultural activities, writing essays, fiction and poems while also launching publishing houses, newspapers, and journals. Being confronted with a largely unsettled population and an atmosphere laced with political and economic struggles in 1950s Hong Kong, the newly arrived intellectuals were the most articulate and sensitive witnesses of colonial arrogance, Cold War frictions, a lack of dedication to communal life, and a clutter of conflicting world views, norms and values. We argue that our selection of these authors' coming-of-age narratives exemplifies how these perplexingly different perspectives were negotiated in stories that self-consciously perpetuate, but also recode, a model of sinophone Bildungsroman writings originating in China's May Fourth modernism (1919-1937). The project thus engages with Hong Kong's colonial history by probing into a crucial aperture of its literary field. The proposed selection of texts conveys a uniquely insightful picture of the entanglements between global and local forces that prompted the formation of an alternative modernity arising from the margins of both the British empire and the Chinese nation. Our analysis of texts that draw as much from Chinese aesthetic conventions as from western literary modernity's paradigm figure of hope and progress, youth, will be based on close readings and supported by methods stemming from narrative theory, social history and discourse analysis. In particular, we are interested in the manner in which writers employed, and sometimes bent, existing generic formulae to represent their experience of abrupt downward mobility, feelings of homelessness and other disorientating spatio-temporal shifts. Exploring how the contradictions of the place and its subjects, for instance those between colonial disempowerment and capitalist success stories, Maoist revolution and Western restoration, survival struggles and aesthetic experiments, individual crisis and social fragmentation, were worked through and, if possible at all, reconciled, the project will contribute to the global history of a hitherto neglected, resilient cultural junction by showcasing one particular variant of a literary form that owes much to its European model, but ultimately may be better described by terms employed in other post-/colonial contexts, such as the novel of transformation.
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