Welcome to the first of the Hong Kong History Centre’s quarterly round-ups.
We have had a busy first quarter here in Bristol. First, and most importantly we have welcome to Bristol Professor Ray Yep, our new Centre Research Director, who has joined us from City University Hong Kong, and Yiuwa Chung, our Senior Research Administrator. We’ll have news of three further appointments to announce in our next newsletter.
On 27 April, we launched our new speakers’ series to provide an open platform for scholars to share their research on Hong Kong history. Our inaugural speaker was Gina Anne Tam, Associate Professor of Chinese history and co-chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies programme at Trinity University, who talked on ‘Gender and Agency in Hong Kong’s History of Activism: The Case of the 1978 Golden Jubilee Secondary School Protest’.
In May 1978, several hundred students and teachers from the all-girls Precious Blood Golden Jubilee Secondary School in Kowloon, Hong Kong, left their classrooms to stage a sit-in in front of the Governor’s Mansion and the Bishop’s House. Spurred by claims of financial malfeasance, lack of transparency, and the ill treatment of students by the school administration, the protests lasted for several days, attracting widespread attention throughout the colony. In response to these students’ calls for dialogue with both the Precious Blood Order and the Hong Kong government, the Education Department, instead, abruptly closed the school altogether, claiming that the protests had escalated so far out of control that the school itself could not be saved.
Gina set out the course of the protest, its origins and aftermath, and her plans for her new book project, which will include this protest as a case study to explain how gender affects the ways we assign agency and leadership in grassroots activism.
On 3 May we had our first in-person event, hosting John D. Wong, Associate Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong, for a talk on his latest book, Hong Kong Takes Flight: Commercial Aviation and the Making of a Global Hub,1930s–1998.
Commercial aviation took shape in Hong Kong as the city developed into a powerful economy. Rather than accepting air travel as an inevitability in the era of global mobility, John argues that Hong Kong’s development into a regional and global airline hub was not preordained.
On 17 May, the Centre hosted its first in-person public event, when Prof. Jeff Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History, at the University of California, Irvine, joined Dr. Vivian Kong in conversation to discuss his experience of writing on Hong Kong and the potential for the Academy to connect with the Public. Jeff reflected on his intellectual journey, and how his long-standing interest in the history of student spurred him on to turn to research on Hong Kong’s history. The conversation ranged from discussion of George Orwell, the ‘Milk Tea Alliance’, activism in China, and the research and writing of his recent book Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink. He shared with us his thoughts on how historians can reach and engage public audiences, and what they can learn from journalists.
In the same week, on 17 and 18 May, we also organised a workshop on ‘Global Histories of (Anti-)Colonialism‘ with colleagues who visited us from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill). The workshop provided a forum for discussion on the ways in which we research the global history of colonial and anti-colonial thought and activism and drew together graduate students and staff in Bristol and UNC to share our work on the topic.
We heard papers on the subjects of mobility, modernization, decolonization, and anti-colonialism, drawing from case studies in the histories of Hong Kong, but also those of Afghanistan, France, India, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore, and Southern Africa.
Looking ahead we are finalising an exciting programme of talks to be held at the Speakers’ Series, as well as a workshop series for early career scholars on Hong Kong history. If you want to receive information and news from Hong Kong History Centre, please subscribe to our mailing list by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.
We hope to see you in the future.