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John McNeil Scott
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Officially-Sanctioned Narratives of the War and Occupation in Hong Kong

With Edward Vickers (Kyushu University, Japan) 

Series:  Regional comparison: Taiwan and Hong Kong in Comparative Perspective|

Date: Wednesday 19 March 2014, 6pm-8pm

Venue: CLM1.02, Clement House, London School of Economics

Chair: Stuart Thompson (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Abstract

This paper deals with how the public representation of Hong Kong’s conquest and occupation by Japan has evolved over the period since 1997. While focusing mainly on the war’s portrayal in two major local museums, the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence, it also discusses representations of the war (or the lack of them) in the broader context of the colony’s postwar history, and of cultural and education policy in the years before and since the retrocession. This context has included a nation-building agenda to some extent shaped by mainland-style ‘patriotic’ messages, whose influence is certainly evident in school textbook portrayals of China’s ‘War of Resistance’. Meanwhile, the introduction since the mid-1990s of local history content into the school curriculum has also brought a Hong Kong dimension to textbook portrayals of this conflict. In discussing to what extent and why official portrayals of the war – in museums and school textbooks – differ from those seen in other Chinese societies, the paper especially highlights issues pertaining to the portrayal of the local Chinese elite. It concludes that the fundamental continuity of this elite, and its close relationship with the political authorities – British, Japanese or Chinese – accounts for peculiarities in the handling of the issue of collaboration. It is argued that the selective treatment of this issue reflects tensions inherent in the attempt to promote a vision of Hong Kong as both an apolitical capitalist utopia, and a staunchly ‘patriotic’ Chinese community. 

Although comparisons with Taiwan are not a main theme of the paper itself, possible comparisons and what might be learnt from them will form a principal focus of the discussion following the presentation.

About the Speaker

Edward Vickers is Associate Professor of Comparative Education at Kyushu University, Japan. He researches the history and politics of education in contemporary Chinese societies, and is particularly interested in the role of schooling in the construction of identities. His recent publications include a special feature of China Perspectives on 'Chinese Visions of Japan', and a volume, Imagining Japan in Post-war East Asia: Identity Politics, Schooling and Popular Culture, co-edited with Paul Morris and Naoko Shimazu.

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