112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

This China Which Is Not One: The Record Industry in the 1920s and 1930s Hong Kong

Aubrey Tang, University of California, Irvine

This paper argues that in the condition where global circulation of capital, talent, and technology is made possible, nationalist thoughts are necessarily constituted with global influences. It disputes the assumption that the national or the local is the opposite of the global, but call their mutually constitutive relationship into question. 


This study investigates the (perversely) mutually constitutive relationship between the rise of Chinese Nationalism in Hong Kong’s early 20th Century modernity and the global circulation of capital, talent, and technology. Although most scholarship on globalization in the non-West conceptualizes the global and the local as opposites, this study rather calls the mutually constitutive relationship between global circulation of materials and nation-building into question. Since nationalism necessarily connotes a type of localism operative on a national level, to say it cooperates with globalization is by definition catachrestic. However, this project’s research materials suggest otherwise. As an intervention to the current scholarly discourse on globalization, not meant to deny the common formulation of the role of global dominance, this study attempts to consider the impact of globalization in East Asia―not a kind of vis-a-vis socio-economic dominance per se, but―a complicit technological enabler of the national.

The main difference this project exhibits is its focus on the local’s construction of self-image as a defense mechanism that paradoxically embodies an external cross-national influence instead of resisting against it. Currently, much scholarship has focused on the impact of the 20th Century Asia’s globalization as how the local negotiates with the global, e.g., how a smaller Asian film economy (Taiwan) responds to Hollywood’s dominance.[1] While such focus is certainly valid, I am interested in how the global facilitates the local’s construction of its self-images, national imaginaries, corporeal fetish, sensational responses, etc. that appear to be authentic/national while are indeed already transnationalized and inscribed with (Western-style) capitalist values. My hypothesis is that instead of imagining the global as an external dominance circumscribing the local as an interfered primordial economy, it is also true in the case of Hong Kong’s early modernity that the local always embodies the global in its very formation: the art, music, performance and literature that materialized national consciousness were themselves products of both internal and external marine transportations, migrations, as well as trades of sound and print technologies. Although the nationalist discourse appeared to be anti-Western, anti-Japanese and authentically Chinese, it was ontologically already a transnational phenomenon of early 20th Century globalization in East Asia.

This paper will be a product of the materials I collected in 2012 from the archive of The Chinese Opera Information Centre at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as of the lessons learned from the leading experts in globalization at the Flying University of Transnational Humanities (FUTH) where I will write this paper.  I attempt to draw a connection between my theory of the transient nature of Hong Kong’s cultural status and the critique of FUTH’s key lecturer, the controversial and influential thinker Naoki Sakai, against both universalism and particularism.[2] Sakai’s idea of going beyond both the global hegemony and local resistance has helped me de-essentialize Hong Kong’s early modernity and formulate it as a paradoxical case of colonial modernity. In my project, I will align myself with a postcolonial and media studies approach to emphasize on the transnational nature of Hong Kong’s early modernity in order to untangle the messy debate about Hong Kong’s paradoxical cultural status still in deadlock situations to this day.

[1] James Udden, “Taiwan” in The Cinemas of Small Nations, edited by Mette Hjort and Duncan Petrie (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007): 151-8.

[2] Naoki Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity (Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press, 1997). 153–76.

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