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To what extent can Hong Kong be considered the epitome of globalisation? - An African perspective


Hong Kong (HK) has long been branded “Asia’s World City”. With somewhat open border controls (a 90-day visa for many foreigners upon entry), booming international trade, relaxed tax policies and an interconnectivity with the rest of the world, HK has been considered the epitome of globalisation. At its core lies Chungking Mansions a landmark building in Tsim Sha Tsui considered ‘the most globalised building in the world’ (Matthews, 2011: 7); known for its low cost guest houses, low-end globalisation, international trade and influx of traders and business owners from South Asia and Africa. Therefore, it is no surprise HK is used as a thriving example of successful globalisation, attracting researchers to study its African community, trade and globalisation (Bertoncello and Bredeloup, 2007; Matthews and Yang, 2012). However, these studies only offered an economic perspective, and do not consider the social and cultural implications of globalisation.

Globalisation is not only an economic phenomenon, but also a process of interconnectivity and integration of people and cultures, hence it is important to question, ‘to what extent Hong Kong can be considered the epitome of globalisation?’ This project seeks to answer just that. Inspired by the work of Castillo (2014) who analysed the place-making practices of African’s in Guangzhou, China, this study will use qualitative methods, grounded in non-positivist approaches to explore African integration through identity with a focus on Chungking Mansions in HK as it stands at the centre of globalisation. The research will consist of three stages. Firstly, cultural mapping in order to trace the histories of the African community. Secondly, interviews with entrepreneurs, business owners and traders to gain a personal perspective. Finally, the research will involve observations of daily life through food processes, language and communal activities. The results will be in the format of a research paper and presentation which will produce an innovative and interesting piece of sociological research that will offer an alternative narrative of globalisation and deeper understanding into the inner workings of low-end globalisation in Hong Kong, and the social and cultural implications of globalisation.

Finally, the economic focus of globalisation in existing research has failed to capture the social experiences at an individual level within these communities. As a Nigerian British woman, I have experienced life as a member of the African community in HK first-hand, and understand the necessity for deeper cultural integration within society. The African community often experiences stigmatisation within society and the level of integration between the HK locals and Africans is questionable. Consequently, this research has been welcomed by Anthropologist and author of ‘Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong’, Professor Gordon Matthews, as well as members of the African community in Hong Kong, who will support this research through its development. This research will prove highly useful for both the African community and Hong Kong society, as well as the UK which also experiences issues of integration in a globalising world. The project will unveil the extent of globalisation, and hopefully encourage interconnectedness.