Landscapes of Belonging

This project is about how the past and the present coexist and how migrants live among both of them.

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About this project

This project was funded by the British Academy for £5,000. The research team included Caroline Knowles and Douglas Harper.

Migration describes patterns of travel and settlement. It describes a broad scale of mobilities from brief sojourns, where it fades into the social practices of travel and tourism, to never to return. It describes circumstances of outward propulsion from severe deprivation to amassing further wealth. Migration is about survival and a restless spirit of adventure. We live in a world on the move. As well as people, objects, images and money slide along routes and networks, making the world in these terms. Cities, like Hong Kong, provide a platform, a place to stand and take stock, of the corridors, networks and circuits configuring the global world in which we live.

This project investigates a fragment of this world. Global cities like Hong Kong are fabricated through the practices of global migrants. But it is also a postcolonial city, in transition from the British Empire to the new opportunities offered in China, and is just as certainly fabricated by this.

In Hong Kong, the past and the present tangle in ways that are tangible. Colonial and global routes, and the human traffic that travels and settles along them, intersect in Hong Kong. Its migrants live these two stories simultaneously.

This project is about how they do this. It traces the routes and routines of the bodies and feet deposited in the entanglements of empire and globalization. It grinds a lens onto Hong Kong's swirling transience and transition. It is a travel guide to the world of twenty-first century migrants who live as minorities in a thoroughly modern Chinese city.