Ghetto at the Center of the World

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-06-30
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr

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There is nowhere else in the world quite like Chungking Mansions, a dilapidated seventeen-story commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong's tourist district. A remarkably motley group of people call the building home; Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, Nepalese heroin addicts, Indonesian sex workers, and traders and asylum seekers from all over Asia and Africa live and work thereeven backpacking tourists rent rooms. In short, it is possibly the most globalized spot on the planet. But asGhetto at the Center of the Worldshows us, a trip to Chungking Mansions reveals a far less glamorous side of globalization. A world away from the gleaming headquarters of multinational corporations, Chungking Mansions is emblematic of the way globalization actually works for most of the world's people. Gordon Mathews's intimate portrayal of the building's polyethnic residents lays bare their intricate connections to the international circulation of goods, money, and ideas. We come to understand the day-to-day realities of globalization through the stories of entrepreneurs from Africa carting cell phones in their luggage to sell back home and temporary workers from South Asia struggling to earn money to bring to their families. And we see that this so-called ghettowhich inspires fear in many of Hong Kong's other residents, despite its low crime rateis not a place of darkness and desperation but a beacon of hope. Gordon Mathews's compendium of riveting stories enthralls and instructs in equal measure, makingGhetto at the Center of the Worldnot just a fascinating tour of a singular place but also a peek into the future of life on our shrinking planet.

Author Biography

Gordon Mathews is professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket and What Makes Life Worth Living? How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds, coauthor of Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation, and coeditor of several books.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prelude: A Note on Hong Kongp. 1
Place: Introducing Chungking Mansionsp. 7
˘Ghetto at the Center of the World÷p. 13
Why Chungking Mansions Exists and Why It Mattersp. 16
The Buildingp. 21
Historyp. 33
Owners' Associationp. 38
Businessp. 41
My Own Involvementp. 50
People: Tradersp. 57
Owners and Managersp. 66
Temporary Workersp. 74
Asylum Seekersp. 78
Domestic Helpersp. 83
Sex Workersp. 85
Heroin Addictsp. 87
Touristsp. 90
How These Different Groups Interactp. 94
Goods: The Passage of Goods in Chungking Mansionsp. 105
Selling Goodsp. 108
Taking Advantage of Buyersp. 112
Copy Goodsp. 114
Manufacturers and Middlemenp. 118
Tricks and Travails of a Phone Stallp. 120
Varieties of Tradersp. 123
The Generation Gap among Tradersp. 128
Techniques of Tradersp. 131
The Lure of Chinap. 135
The Perils of Customsp. 137
The Significance of Goods and Tradersp. 147
Laws: The Omnipresent Shadow of the Lawp. 151
Conflicts Within and Beyond the Lawp. 153
The Role of Policep. 157
Visas and Residence Rightsp. 165
Asylum Seekers and the Lawp. 169
˘Real÷ and ˘Fake÷ Asylum Seekersp. 173
The Lives of Asylum Seekersp. 178
The Changing Treatment of Asylum Seekersp. 190
Future: Changing Imaginations of Chungking Mansionsp. 195
How Chungking Mansions Transforms Peoplep. 198
Cultural Identityp. 202
Global Significancep. 207
The Future of Chungking Mansions/The Future of the Worldp. 215
Notesp. 219
Referencesp. 225
Indexp. 231
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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