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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hong Kong and capitalist culture : two films and a critique of transnationalism Thompson, Malcolm


This thesis attempts to track sociocultural dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in recent Hong Kong history, by means of an analysis of capital logic that is derived from Marxist work on the institution of capitalist culture. The investigation is framed by a reading of two recent films from Hong Kong—"Comrades, Almost a Love Story" (1996: dir. Peter Chan) and "Little Cheung" (1999: dir. Fruit Chan)—which, read together, reveal the interconnections between inclusion and exclusion in a particularly clear way. Several 'scenes', 'events', or processes in recent Hong Kong history are analysed and brought into relation: the transnationalist discourse of diaspora and mobility that Comrades encodes and its obverse side in "Little Cheung"; the juridico-political framework of the detention camps in which Vietnamese refugees were confined from the 1980s until 2001; the economic incorporation of the Pearl River Delta by Hong Kong industrial and financial enterprises; and the Right of Abode debate since 1997, in which the question of who is included in and who is excluded from the category 'Hong Kong person' becomes quite confused. What links these 'moments' is a dynamic in which the very attempt to demarcate an inside and an outside throws the boundary into question, and in which the 'crisis' to which the determining machinery addresses itself is nothing other than the effect of its own operation, thus creating a self-sustaining 'state of emergency' whose dynamism inflects recent Hong Kong history. It is suggested that this dynamic is broadly characteristic of contemporary capitalism, for which Hong Kong serves as an example.

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