Born and raised in Hong Kong, Vivian Kong moved to Bristol to take up the Hong Kong History Project Doctoral Studentship in 2015. After the completion of her BA and MPhil degrees at the University of Hong Kong, she embarked on her PhD study of the pre-war British community of Hong Kong at the University of Bristol under Professor Robert Bickers.
Her interests in studying the Britons there originate from her MPhil research on the evacuation of British families from Hong Kong in 1940. While examining the public response towards the compulsory policy, Vivian noticed that many Britons there had already developed a local identity in Hong Kong, which contributed to their nostalgic comments about their lives there and reluctance to leave the city despite the threat of a Japanese invasion. She became interested in how they identified themselves and how their experience living there affected the way they perceived Britishness, and how they viewed British subjects of Asian descent in Hong Kong.
By reconstructing the lives of Britons in pre-war Hong Kong and their interactions with other communities there, Vivian’s doctoral research aims to explore the relationship between colonialism and Britishness. She is eager to examine how Hong Kong Britons’ colonial experience shaped their view of imperialism and Britishness. She is also interested to see how Britishness was defined by different communities in the colony, and what Britishnesss meant for them. While using a variety of written sources such as official documents, newspapers and memoirs, Vivian also employs oral histories in her research. She is currently recruiting former residents of Hong Kong who spent their childhood in pre-war Hong Kong to participate in her research.
Combining her research with public engagement has always been an important aspect of Vivian’s work. She has a blog hk1940evacuation.wordpress.com where she shares the findings of her MPhil research, and in the future, her PhD research. The blog has put her in touch with not only surviving former residents of Hong Kong who were willing to bring in their insights and stories, and readers who wish to find out more about their family histories, but also interested readers hoping to learn more about an untold aspect of Hong Kong history.