Blog, TC 2019

Hong Kong Identity as a Global Laboratory

Gordon Matthews, Professor of Anthropology

The Lecture discussed how cultural identity in today’s world is shaped. He distinguished between the discourse of the state, that “you must love, cherish and defend your country”, and the discourse of the market, that “one can buy, do, and be anything in the world that one wants.” Most people in the developed world take both of these discourses for granted; but many people in Hong Kong have only known one, the discourse of the market. The talk considered Hong Kong as a laboratory for the world in terms of cultural identity. Are many Hong Kongers, in their inability to comprehend “loving one’s country”, blind in a world where everyone else can see? Or are they sane in a world where everyone else is insane?

The discourse of the state is about loving your country. The discourse of the market means you can buy, be and do anything you choose.
Every country makes different sense of loving their country as much as every individual chooses differently what they are and do. Most people inhabit both discourses to different degrees.
According to Matthews Europeans didn’t so much learn or inhabit the discourse of the state because of the awful memories of world war two.
The people of Hong Kong have not made sense of this concept either. Matthews argues that Hong Kong was never part of a country and no one taught them it was one. And when most people learn both discourses, Hong Kongers only understood the discourse of the market. For a long time and until recently they would not have an identity. He had not heard the phrase ” I love Hong Kong” a lot before. But some sort of Hong Hong identity has been born in the last year.