Information Services Office   19.9.2011

383

 
Newsletter No. 383 > Books

Books

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Chungking Mansions (CKM) is a labyrinth of cheap sleeps, Indian restaurants, and souvenir stalls spread over five 17-storey blocks in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui. Whether it’s fear or fascination the building arouses, Ghetto at the Centre of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, written by Gordon Mathews, professor of anthropology at CUHK, will shift your perspective somewhat. The well-researched publication offers an ethnographic portrait of CKM and the people who live in it, work in it and pass through it. They include African traders, Pakistani and Indian proprietors, Chinese owners, tailors, asylum seekers, drug addicts, sex workers and tourists. The book reveals CKM’s inhabitants’ complex connections to the international circulation of goods, money and ideas, and shows how it epitomizes the way Mathews believes globalization works for most of the world’s people. 


The book comprises five sections. ‘Place’ describes the history and significance of the building, as well as its major permanent players. ‘People’ lays bare the various categories of people who thrive, survive or try to in CKM — traders, owners and managers, temporary workers (legal and illegal), domestic helpers, sex workers, heroin addicts, tourists, and how they interact with each other. ‘Goods’ gives an overview of the passage of goods in CKM, including mobile phones, clothing and watches (authentic and copy), in particular, how it enables their transfer from China to Africa and South Asia. The intricate relationship between Hong Kong law (law enforcers) and asylum seekers, residents, and business owners inside CKM is tackled in ‘Laws’. While the last section ‘Future’ explores issues such as the cultural identities of people from the third world in this first-world city and how the ways in which CKM is viewed by Hong Kong Chinese and by its inhabitants will evolve.

Ghetto at the Centre of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong

Author: Gordon Mathews

Publisher: Hong Kong University Press


Year: 2011


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