Mark Hampton
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Britishness, empire, and Hong Kong
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This introduction argues that Hong Kong has rarely been considered as a site for Britain’s cultural engagement with its empire. For the period since World War II, the predominant narrative has been decolonization, and yet in the case of Hong Kong, the first three post-war decades were a crucial period of colonial state-building, with the British departure becoming assured only after 1982. The British cultural engagement with Hong Kong was most salient for those Britons who actually spent time there, whether as expatriates, short-term soldiers, or tourists. Hong Kong featured in metropolitan discourse most strikingly at particular moments of crisis, including the 1967-68 riots and the 1997 “handover”. At the same time, though, it featured in more sporadic and mundane ways, whether as the setting for a television series or romance novel, the source of children’s toys, or in reports from friends and family who lived and worked there. In these various contexts, Hong Kong constituted a site for the projection of a distinct Britishness.

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