Monday, November 20, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] "Do you realise this is a Chinese school?": White parents as ethnic minorities in the local Hong Kong school system

Date: November 3, 2017
Speaker: Paul O’Connor (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University)
Title: "Do you realise this is a Chinese school?": White parents as ethnic minorities in the local Hong Kong school system

Dr. O'Connor

In this Friday Seminar, Dr. O’Connor examined the case of white parents attempting to enroll their children in local kindergarten and primary schools in Hong Kong. He started by outlining the context of his research. From 2012 to 2014, Hong Kong witnessed a rise of anti-mainland sentiment, and a series of political protests took place. A localist Hong Kong identity seems to have come to the forefront. On the other hand, Dr. O’Connor’s wife is an English who grew up in Hong Kong, and their three sons were all born in Hong Kong and very strongly identify as Hongkongers. Dr. O’Connor and his wife tried to send their youngest son into a local kindergarten so that he could learn Cantonese. While he initially did quite well, after he changed to another kindergarten as the family moved, his Cantonese learning virtually stopped. These macro and micro contexts made Dr. O’Connor very interested in the current research topic.

When it comes to schooling in Hong Kong, Dr. O’Connor pointed out that the change to Mother Tongue Instruction in 1997 was a crucial move, as the importance of English got diluted, while the focus on Chinese became more important while complicated and messy. Currently, more than 300 schools use Chinese (Cantonese) as their MOI (medium of instruction) while English is used in select, elite and designated schools. Dr. O’Connor highlighted that international schools experience an exodus of white parents after 1997, and currently almost half of the students in international schools are Chinese.

While white people compose less than 1% of the population in Hong Kong and are ethnic minorities in this sense, their average monthly salary almost triples that of the Hong Kong population, and is way higher than that of Thai, Pakistani, Indonesian and Indian people in Hong Kong. This leads to the question: how do we frame white people as ethnic minorities in the circumstance? Another relevant background is that according to statistics, around 25% of white people in Hong Kong, while Dr. O’Connor believed the actual percentage is far lower than that.

So, why are more white parents sending their children to local schools? When he was conceiving the research, Dr. O’Connor thought that this has to do with Hong Kong identity, while his co-researcher, Dr. Julian M. Groves, believed that it is about preserving privileged status. They conducted semi structured interviews with 18 white parents with an average age of 44. While the number of interviewees is relatively small, Dr. O’Connor explained that they achieve data saturation pretty soon as these white parents had very similar experience.

Their findings are a mix of both issues. The white parents have multiple motivations: On the one hand, the high cost of international school can be a burden for those families that are in a financially more precarious position, and some parents are concerned of how their kids are going to find a job if they do not speak Cantonese. Dr. O’Connor argued that recently there is a value judgement about international schools, criticizing them as elitist and privileged. These parents are convinced that a more wholesome way to raise your kids is to give them an authentic experience of the culture in the local Hong Kong society, and sending their kids to local schools is a more challenging but also more rewarding route to take. Dr. O’Connor argued that this is a way for these white parents to preserve their privileged status, and values like global citizenship and multiculturalism are emphasized. This also shows a commitment to Hong Kong: Dr. O’Connor explained that there is a focus on Cantonese, which is seen as more authentically Hong Kong than Mandarin and will enable one to live a truly local life in the community. Having said that, Dr. O’Connor clarifies that no parents they interviewed held a localist stance. These values, however, can be co-opted and inconsistent. Dr. O’Connor discovered that the parents can be anxious about sending their children to schools with “too many” Pakistani, which might compromise their ability to let their children learn Chinese. The values about diversity and inclusion stop when they cannot get the value they want, understandably so.

Dr. O’Connor discussed how this privileged community experience great difficulty and even what they perceive as discrimination when applying for local schools for their children. Drawing on the parents’ own accounts, he illustrated how the schools insist that they are “Chinese schools” meant for Chinese people, and the white kids are seen as a hassle and rejected outright. The teachers also do not believe that the white kids can possible learn Chinese. When there are ethnic minorities students in the class, sometimes they are arranged to sit on the same table and separated from other students, and therefore cannot really learn Chinese. These difficult and frustrating attempts to enroll the kids in local schools have caused significant emotional distress and internal conflicts to the white families.

Dr. O’Connor argued that the education system in Hong Kong offers very little guidance or support for these parents. Despite their wealth, social capital and privilege, white people have similar marginalization and obstacles as other ethnic minorities do in Hong Kong when it comes to education, which leads Dr. O’Connor to the conclusion that the schooling system is broken, and the division of local and international system problematic.

Related publication:

Groves, Julian M., and Paul O'Connor. "Negotiating global citizenship, protecting privilege: western expatriates choosing local schools in Hong Kong." British Journal of Sociology of Education (2017): 1-15.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong

Date: October 27, 2017
Speaker: Chee Wai-Chi (Department of Education Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University)
Title: Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong

Dr. Chee

What are migrant students’ opportunities and challenges in Hong Kong’s education system? How do they negotiate their identities and belonging? In this Friday Seminar, Dr. Chee Wai-Chi tried to answer these questions by looking into the academic trajectories and identity formation of two incoming teenage groups to Hong Kong – from mainland China and from South Asia (predominantly India, Pakistan, and Nepal). Dr. Chee started by outlining the context. For the South Asian group, ethnic minorities constitute about 8% of the whole population in Hong Kong. School attendance rates of ethnic minorities are significantly lower than those of the whole population, especially at the post-secondary level. The proportion of people working in elementary, non-skilled occupations, on the other hand, is much higher among the South Asians than among the whole population in Hong Kong. For mainland Chinese, from 2006 to 2016, 40,000 one-way permit holders entered Hong Kong every year. Yet, there are no statistics about their education and occupation since they are not categorized as a separate group in government census. Dr. Chee conducted longitudinal study of these two groups of teenage immigrant students in Hong Kong.

Dr. Chee found out that the Induction Programme (IP) plays an important role in the immigrant students’ academic trajectory. If the students can stay in the same school after IP, they usually develop strong bonding with that school, while those who have to leave experience a love-hate relationship with their IP school. Dr. Chee argued that the IP schools are like “green houses”, and that is why it feels particularly bad when students are denied a place in their original school. “It is their first experience of being rejected in Hong Kong, by a school that has been so supportive and reassuring, which may lead to resentment.” Whether a student can stay in the same school or not of course have to do with their individual performances, yet there are also structural reasons at play. Dr. Chee discovered that when a school has too many ethnic minorities students, the Chinese parents may withdraw from sending their children there. Therefore, the schools have to pay attention and keep ethnic minorities students within a limited proportion. Dr. Chee argued that finishing the IP is a turning point in the academic trajectories of many immigrant students. Paradoxically, while IP is a nurturing space for the students who are new to Hong Kong, it does not prepare them well for the larger educational realities of Hong Kong and may eventually fail them.

When it comes to the construction and negotiation of identity, Dr. Chee found that there is a predominant emphasis on Cantonese linguistic capital, be it at official level or in everyday encounters of individuals. The official term for immigrant students is “Non-Chinese speaking students”, which appears to be offensive by some. One student said, “Can I call you ‘non-English speaking’? Why not address it as a second language learning, or non-mother tongue learners?” In their daily life, fluency in Cantonese seems to open up another door for friends, career prospects and many other things, and the lack of it is a shame. One student said, “This is a school for ‘disabled’ people like me. We don’t speak Cantonese.” Another student reported being treated impolitely while working at McDonald’s because his Cantonese was not good. Dr. Chee argued that the major significance of Cantonese in the immigrant students’ construction of a Hong Kong identity is a rather new phenomenon. Several years ago, the students would use entitlement (the rights they enjoy in Hong Kong) and descent (their family members being Hong Kong permanent residents) to explain why they see themselves as Hong Kong people. Dr. Chee suggested that the rise of importance of Cantonese may have to do with the rising emphasis on local Hong Kong culture in recent years.

Dr. Chee looked further into the difference between the two groups. Many South Asian students feel that they have a “mixed” identity. One Indian student commented that she is a Hongkonger but she still has some Indian things since she grew up there, and it was not important to be a “full” Hongkonger, as long as she herself is comfortable with both parts of her identity. Another Nepalese student said that he could easily “switch” his identities depending on where he is, in Nepal or Hong Kong. The mainland students, Dr. Chee argued, embed their Hong Kong identity under their Chinese identity, as they mainly see themselves as a Chinese who is living in Hong Kong. Dr. Chee found that interestingly, their self-identification as “Hongkonger in/of China” (中國香港人) is heavily informed by a categorization of identity mainly constructed by the polling of the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme.

The Audience





Thursday, October 26, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Deliberate Design or Accidental Abuse? Misappropriations of Applied Anthropology in Global Design Consulting

Date: October 20, 2017
Speaker: Non Arkaraprasertkul (Department of Architecture, Design and Planning, Sydney University)
Title: Deliberate Design or Accidental Abuse? Misappropriations of Applied Anthropology in Global Design Consulting

Dr. Non Arkaraprasertkul

Since the 1970s, “design research” has become popular in the consulting industry. It is a form of research that emphasizes empathy, and aims to create demand for yet-to-be realized needs. Dr. Arkaraprasertkul started to investigate design research by introducing the idea of “Anthropology Inc.” raised by Graeme Wood. Nowadays, the largest margin of any market across the globe lies in everyday consumerism. Therefore, the consulting companies treat people’s everyday experience as a research subject of major value, and turn to anthropology and use the method of field research. Jane Fulton Suri, author of Thoughtless Acts and founder of Human Centered Design Research at IDEO, is a prominent figure in this field.

Dr. Arkaraprasertkul introduced the characteristics of design research. Design research relies on observing people as they act naturally, and empathy is a regarded as a crucial guiding principle, as the researchers defer judgement on value. Importantly, design research is clearly goal-oriented, and the goal is usually a commercial one. The key methods of design research, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul explained, are: go out and watch people; ask questions, no matter how “dumb” they appear; embrace extreme users; find people who break rules when using things and find out why; think about experience rather than things; think in verbs rather than nouns; and borrow ideas from other areas. Dr. Arkaraprasertkul then showed several examples of design research.

While it all looks great in principle, what Dr. Arkaraprasertkul experienced during his six-month fieldwork in a transnational global design consulting firm based at a first-tier city in China turned out to be less than ideal. He found out that in this firm, the design researchers, who were supposed to listen to their informants carefully, were too ready to instead speak on behalf of the informants. The interviews were mostly structured and directive, and the researchers often told the rest of the research teams what, as they believed it, the informants thought. Utmost emphasis was put on film and sound recordings, as they could be used as “solid evidence”. What’s more, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul sensed a strong sense of entitlement among the design researchers, who actually saw themselves more as consultants, would like to keep a distance from their informants, and held a deep sense of hostility toward “academic research”. Most importantly, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul pointed out, the researchers have to be result-oriented so as to meet deadlines and get paid. In conclusion, Dr. Arkaraprasertkul argued that the essence and spirit of anthropology is “diluted” in design research.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization: Kabaddi and Local-Global Disjuncture in Taiwan

Date: October 6, 2017
Speaker: Wyman Tang Wai-man (Department of Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Title: Between Mainstreaming and Marginalization: Kabaddi and Local-Global Disjuncture in Taiwan 

Dr. Wyman Tang

Kabaddi is a traditional game popular in South Asia. As it is simple and requires no instruments, it is called “game of the masses”. Under the influence of the nationalist movement in India, this game was formalized and standardized into National kabaddi, which has been promoted to other countries and played in international games since 1990.

Dr. Tang first looked into why Taiwanese players are interested in playing kabaddi. After the Doha Asian Game in 2006, a Taiwan businessman brought Kabaddi to Taiwan. In Taiwan, Kabaddi is often thought of as “an Asian game for Asians”—since there are weight limits (85kg for male, 70kg for female), it is thought to be suitable for the smaller bodies of Asians. While such a discourse sounds like the popular racial discourse in sports, Dr. Tang argued that what people want to emphasize is an ideal that Kabaddi should be an inclusive game, which is not dominated by particularly strong and huge people but can also be played by different people with smaller body size. Having said that, Dr. Tang discovered that in practice, Kabaddi players do make many efforts to gain weight and approach the weight limit, though still believing that Taiwanese are born to play kabaddi. Also, this new sport gives new hope to many “elite athletes” who showed talent in sports during secondary schools yet failed to reach the top level. They shifted to kabaddi, which is still less competitive than the traditional sports, with the hope that it can give them the opportunities to join the national team.

Another major group of kabaddi players in Taiwan are the indigenous people. The popular discourse follows the ethnic stereotype, i.e. indigenous people are better at playing sports. In the media, some indigenous kabaddi players also compare playing kabaddi with their childhood experience of hunting. However, Dr. Tang’s conversations with indigenous players show that most of them do not believe there is a significant bodily difference between Han Chinese and indigenous players. What is indeed happening, as school teachers explain to Dr. Tang, is that for the indigenous students, their families are less likely to be able to afford tuition classes from secondary school onwards. To play sports and go through the elite athlete scheme is an alternative method to enter university without good academic results, and kabaddi is cheaper and less competitive compared with other sports. This is why indigenous students have a higher participation rate in kabaddi.

Then, how is it like to play kabaddi in Taiwan? Dr. Tang introduced that in 2008, Taiwan was recognized as a member in the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF). Since then, Taiwanese team has been participating in the international tournament. In 2014, the Professional Kabaddi League (PKL) was established in India, and two Taiwanese players have joined the league so far.

In Taiwan, having the opportunity to join the national team and play in international matches is very important. Many jobs in the sports field are low-paying and unpromising. The ideal career for an athlete is to become a school PE teacher as it gives a stable, good income. Yet, through the formal channel, the chance was small. By contrast, if a player can join the national team and play in the international game, their chance to become a licensed coach in a school will be raised to a great extent. However, Dr. Tang pointed out that the Taiwanese team’s chance of participation in various international games are still very limited.

So, Dr. Tang asked, why are the opportunities for Taiwanese kabaddi players so limited? He answered this question by analyzing the global politics in kabaddi. India is an emerging economy. The profits generated in the PKL are not enough for promotion of kabaddi in wealthier countries. On the contrary, money flow from these countries to India, if they want to join the India-centered global kabaddi club. For the poorer countries, IKF send them various resources to develop kabaddi, looking forward to a good return from selling products and broadcast rights in the long run. Taiwan, however, is in an embarrassing position. Taiwan developed kabaddi without the support from the government, and India can reap little direct benefits from Taiwan to India. Dr. Tang argued that the in-between role of Taiwan – neither too poor, unlike Nepal, nor too rich, unlike Japan – made it difficult for Taiwan to get on the kabaddi train.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Talk and Concert: Sheng-xiang and Band 【生祥樂隊·講座+演唱會資訊】

The Department of Anthropology and Chung Chi College are honored to invite Mr. Lin Sheng Hsiang, the song writer, vocalist and moon guitarist of Sheng-xiang and Band to give a talk on his experience of participating in social movements via music.

Anthropologists are curious about cultural differences — why are we all human beings even though the differences between us are huge?  Yet, in fact, people from one society could also be sharply different from each other. When the majority in a society are interested in accumulation, self-enterprising, and a (materially) abundant life of success, there are people who are more interested in simple, rustic life: staying in one’s village and appreciating floating clouds and beautiful mountains. Mr. Lin is one such person: he cannot help but cares about the dying farming villages, hopeless marginalized groups, and polluted environment that one can easily find in any intensely industrialized society. Soon after he graduated from college, he realized that he can hardly adapt to the music industry in Taipei that relies on packaging a lot. When he then learned about the development of anti-dam campaign in his home town Meinong, he returned home without hesitation and started planting the seeds of protests with his unique rock n’roll mixed with Hakka mountain songs. Why did he not give up his concerns for the marginalized, the farming villages and the environment when he struggled to support his family in spite of being a critically acclaimed and awarding-winning musician? Why did he say that musicians and songs alone won’t bring changes even though he has been questioning the policy of favoring industrial development over agriculture and has been singing stories of the distress of home-leaving youth continuously for 20 years? Please join us to find out about Lin Sheng Hsiang’s persistent journey on both music and social activism. (The talk will be conducted in Mandarin.)

After the talk, the 6-musician Sheng-xiang and Band will present in full band their newest album Village Besieged, concerning petrochemical industry and pollution, at Sir Run Run Shaw Hall on 18 October. Toru Hayakawa, the bassist of Sheng-Xiang and Band once commented: “Being a musician is about being honest with oneself.” Anthropologists and musicians both believe in understanding through bodily practices. Join us to listen, find and cultivate the seed of change in your heart.  





Friday, October 6, 2017

Moods and Emotions through Indian Kathak Dance 印度卡塔克舞活動

On 21 September 2017, there was an Indian classical dance program “Moods & Emotions through Indian Kathak Dance” organized at CUHK campus. This program was initiated by the Centre of Urban History, Culture and Media (CUHCM) of the Institute of Future Cities (IOFC), and co-organized by the Multiculturalism in Action Project (MIA).  It included a seminar, a music workshop, and a dance workshop on kathak, a 2000-year-old dance from northern India. It was a great honour and privilege to have Ms. Sunayana Hazarilal and her team to be the guest speakers of this program. Ms. Hazarilal is an internationally acclaimed kathak dancer who has conducted kathak workshops in various countries including the United States, Italy, and Germany. In 2011, Ms. Hazarilal was awarded the Padma Shri (the fourth highest civilian award in India) by the Government of India.

2017921日,香港中文大學校園裡舉行了一系列關於卡塔克舞的講座、音樂工作坊和舞蹈工作坊。是次活動由未來城市研究所 (IOFC) 城市歷史、文化與傳媒中心(CUHCM)策劃,並由多元文化行動計劃(MIA)協辦。卡塔克舞是一種擁有二千年歷史的北印度古典舞。我們很榮幸邀請到Sunayana Hazarilal 女士和她的音樂團隊作為活動的嘉賓講者。Hazarilal女士是國際知名的卡塔克舞者,多年來在世界各地如美國、意大利和德國等地舉辦過不少卡塔克舞工作坊。在2011年,Hazarilal女士獲印度政府頒發第四級公民榮譽獎 —— 蓮花士勛章。

The seminar, “Kathak: History, Gender, and National Identity”, was moderated by Prof. Andre Elias, an ethnomusicologist at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Ms. Hazarilal gave a talk to introduce the development of kathak, as well as notions of gender and identity in the dance.

講座“卡塔克:歷史,性別,與國家身份認同” 由香港浸會大學民族音樂學者Andre Elias教授主持。Hazarilal女士除了介紹卡塔克舞的發展,亦討論關於卡塔克舞中的性別和身份認同等議題。

Ms. Hazarilal demonstrating some basic movements in kathak and their meanings

The kathak music workshop saw the music team: sitar player Ms. Prajakta, tabla player Mr. Kalinath Mishra, and vocalist Mr. Somanth Mishra displaying their musical talents. The workshop was moderated by Prof. Jeffrey Levenberg, an ethnomusicologist at the Music Department of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. During the workshop, participants learnt about the Indian music rhythm known as tintal. It is made up of 16 symmetrical beats upon which a performance can be laid. The audience were also treated to a mesmerizing session of soothing beats and hypnotic strumming of the sitar, creating a calming atmosphere in the room. The vibes of a fast paced Hong Kong society was dissipated momentarily as everyone in the room closed their eyes to enjoy the soothing tunes. 

在卡塔克音樂工作坊中,音樂團隊展示了他們的非凡才華。團隊成員包括西塔琴演奏家Prajakta女士、塔布拉手鼓演奏家Kalinath Mishra先生和歌唱家Somanth Mishra先生。工作坊由香港中文大學音樂系民族音樂學者Jeffrey Levenberg教授主持。工作坊講解了印度音樂中的節奏 tintal,它以十六拍為一個循環,是卡塔克舞音樂的基本節奏。在西塔琴迷人的樂聲中,大家的思緒飄到窗外的山林。現場每個人都合上眼,放下心頭的顧慮,靜靜地欣賞優美的西塔琴聲。

Mr. Mishra teaching a participant how to play the tabla

Ms. Prajakta on the sita

At the kathak dance workshop, participants were at their feet stamping to the beats of the tabla. Ms. Hazarilal set the standards high, introducing to participants first the slow beats, which gradually culminated to faster and faster beats. Participants had a good workout and had fun coordinating the swaying of their hands with their feet stamping to the rhythms. It was a really enjoyable workshop with participants laughing and trying their best to keep up with the beats. Ma. Hazarilal and her team were the most encouraging teachers, shouting praises and encouragements to participants throughout the time. The three workshops ended in the early evening. To show our appreciation to the guests, a vegetarian dinner was held at the new vegetarian restaurant on campus, hosted by Prof. Siumi Maria Tam, Director of the CUHCM and the MIA.

緊接下來是卡塔克舞蹈工作坊。Hazarilal女士是要求甚高的老師。她以認真和嚴謹的態度帶領參加者從慢至快的節奏學習基本步。在揮動雙手的同時,大家要顧及雙腳踏地的節奏是否準確。雖然要協調僵硬的身體並不容易,但大家都樂在其中,享受著卡塔克舞的樂趣。Hazarilal女士和她的音樂團隊不時為大家打氣,並給予耐心指導。活動於傍晚結束。為表謝意,由擔任CUHCM 所長暨MIA總監譚少薇教授在中大素食餐廳與嘉賓聚餐。

Ms. Hazarilal teaching the basic steps of kathak

Art and performance is a very good way for one to have deeper insights into the ethos of another culture. Throughout these sessions, participants gained a whole new insight on kathak, they learned how to appreciate other cultural artforms from an intercultural perspective. Indeed, it is a celebration and attest to the vibrant diversity and cultures of Hong Kong.

Thank you all for your participation!

Reporter: Amy Phua
Translator: Connie Lee

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] From a Victim of Exploitation to an Advocate of Migrant’s Rights: A Journey and Lesson Learnt

Date: September 22th 2017 (Friday)
Speaker: Eni Lestari (International Migrants Alliance)

Ms. Eni Lestari

Eni Lestari is an Indonesian domestic worker and migrant rights activist who has been working in Hong Kong since 1999. In the Friday Seminar titled “From a Victim of Exploitation to an Advocate of Migrant’s Rights: A Journey and Lesson Learnt”, Ms. Lestari examined the troubled reality faced by migrant workers and discussed how bottom-up empowerment of migrant workers can be possible by telling her own story.

Ms. Lestari started by explaining how she ended up in Hong Kong: Being a daughter of a poor family in East Java, Indonesia, her dream of going to university was crushed by the Asian financial crisis (1996-1998), which left her family in debt. The only hope she saw was to become a migrant worker, and it took her more than one year to convince her parents to let her go. “I will go to Hong Kong—at least, I heard, they have holidays there, and I can call you to let you know I am alright,” said the young Ms. Lestari to her worried parents.     

Yet, Ms. Lestari did not expect that she would be confined in an “agency training camp”, which to her was almost like a prison. She told the audience how workers recruited by brokers had to live in a shabby room without access to information, decent food, proper accommodation or good hygiene. After five months, Ms. Lestari flew to Hong Kong, only to fall into another “trap”—her identity documents got confiscated right upon arrival; she was underpaid and denied rest days by her employer. Regardless of Ms. Lestari’s religious belief, the employer tried to force her to eat pork. In the cold winter that Ms. Lestari had never experienced before, she was only provided with two short sleeve T-shirts. And there were a lot of prohibitions: she was not allowed to use the phone, to use the washing machine, to pray, to weep in the night, to go out of the house or to talk to other people. Ms. Lestari ran away after 7 months.

“It took me so long to even get to know what it means and to realize that it was illegal for the employer to treat me like this,” Ms. Lestari recollected. She understood her experience not as an individual misfortune, but a social problem. Indonesia, the 4th largest nation in the world, is rich in natural resources, yet, landlessness, a high unemployment rate, poverty, economic inequality, poor social services, corruption and militarization characterize the harsh reality Indonesians find themselves in. Ms. Lestari explained how the labor export program is a big industry aiming to minimize social problems caused by massive poverty by exporting labor and earning revenues from remittances and fees. As the labor export business is outsourced to private recruitment agencies, direct government protection and accountability becomes unavailable to individual migrant workers, Ms. Lestari pointed out.

Ms. Lestari then turned to her “empowerment journey”: After running away from the abusive employer, she was sheltered in Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, where she was trained to learn English, knowledge about migrant workers’ rights and organizational skills, and assisted in handling cases of fellow migrant workers. Ms. Lestari discussed the challenges in organizing: the migrant workers are afraid of losing their jobs and prosecution and many feel that their condition is a given and cannot be improved anyway. “No ordinary people in our society hold a mic, so even just to make the domestic workers speak in public is a big empowerment,” commented Ms. Lestari. The activists also have a hard time dealing with intimidation from agencies, lack of support and even reactive response from fellow migrant workers as they engage in educating, organizing and mobilizing the grassroots.

The International Migrants Alliance, of which Ms. Lestari is currently the chairperson, was established in 2008 in Hong Kong and aimed to bring the voices of grassroots migrants, refugees and displaced people into regional and global policy-making. “Our presence is seen as ‘temporary’ and is made invisible,” said Ms. Lestari, “And our voices unheard. When we are called upon to talk, we are only expected to provide testimony about our suffering. We are never asked, ‘what do you want’ or ‘what is your wish’, as if we were people with no brains and no feelings. This is why we have to take the initiative and speak for ourselves.” 

Ms. Lestari wrapped up by trying to debunk the myth of “migration for development”, analyzing how the global capitalist system in the day of neoliberalism has led to displacement, impoverishment and suffering of people.

During the talk, Ms. Lestari effectively combined her personal story with structural analysis, and impressed the audience with vivid stories, a good sense of humor, and her determination to fight for the rights and welfare of migrants.

The Audience

922日的「星期五研討會」中,國際移工聯盟(International Migrants Alliance)現任主席Eni Lestari女士分享了她從剝削的受害者到社會運動家的轉變歷程。她分析了其中折射出的移工面臨的艱難處境,並探討由下而上的賦權如何可能。 Lestari女士來自於印度尼西亞的一個貧困家庭。亞洲金融風暴使他們陷入債務之中,也碾碎了她的大學夢。外出務工似乎成為了唯一希望。Lestari用了一年多的時間說服父母,「我要去香港……至少,我聽說,他們有假期,我可以打電話給你們報平安。」



逃離虐待她的雇主之後,Lestari去到白恩逢女移民工庇護中心(Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge)。在那裡,她學習了英文、與移工權利相關的知識以及進行組織工作的技巧。Lestari表示,要動員移工參與運動,同樣困難重重:他們往往害怕失去工作、遭到迫害,也常常覺得他們的處境無法改變。

國際移工聯盟(International Migrants Alliance)成立於2008年,致力於將基層移工、難民和流離失所人民的聲音帶進地區與全球性的政策制定過程之中。「我們的存在總被視為是『臨時』的,不被真正看見。當我們被召去講話的時候,人們都只是期待我們以受害者的角色,訴說我們遭受過的苦難。然而,從來沒有人問過我們,『你想要什麼?你的願望是什麼?』似乎我們是沒有大腦、沒有感情的人。因此,我們必須為自己發聲。


Monday, September 25, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] The Politics and Ethics of Patriarchy in 21st century China: A Conversation about Sex, Family, and Power

Date: September 15th 2017 (Friday)
Speakers: Petula S. Y. HO (何式凝) (Social Work, HKU)
Teresa KUAN (關宜馨) (Anthropology, CUHK)
Gordon MATHEWS (麥高登) (Anthropology, CUHK)
Gonçalo SANTOS (江紹龍) (HKIHSS, HKU)
Moderator: Minhua LING (凌旻華) (China Studies, CUHK)

Chinese society has been radically reshaped by the successive waves of revolutions since the 19th century. Patriarchy, which defined the familial social structure for a very long period in Chinese history, seems to be altered or even reversed. Is patriarchy “dead”, or is it still relevant for understanding power and intimate life in contemporary China? Discussing the book Transforming Patriarchy: Chinese Families in the 21st Century, Prof. Ho, Prof. Kuan, Prof. Mathews and Prof. Santos shared their views in the Friday Seminar titled “The Politics and Ethics of Patriarchy in 21st century China: A Conversation about Sex, Family and Power”.

Prof. Santos started by stating that he finds it important to bring family and intimate life back into the focus of research on contemporary society and investigate their intertwinement with institutions and technologies. He then examined and critiqued the theoretical “enemies”: two previous theories of the transformation of families, i.e. modernization theory and individualization theory. Modernization theory argues that as industrialization spreads, there is a shift from the patriarchal family to the nuclear family, in which more emphasis is put on companionship and romantic love, leading to a more egalitarian mode of intimate life. The individualization thesis, as a successor, highlights how intimate relationships have been privatized and become thinner, more fragile and liquid in the age of globalization. Prof. Santos pointed out that these theses assume the change to be linear, and overstate the importance of individual agency, without articulating clearly the link between individual choice, state policies and global forces.

As an alternative, in Transforming Patriarchy, it is argued that the rising significance of romantic love, conjugal units and individualized intimacy should be conceptualized as the transformation of patriarchal inequalities, rather than the end of them. Based on the Chinese context, Prof. Santos discussed a spatial-temporal model of domestic inequality, which includes two key axes: generation and gender. Furthermore, this system is not historically constant but subject to the influence of extra-domestic forces in the surrounding environment. Prof. Santos argued that while the classic patriarchal structures have been effectively shaken in contemporary China, the growing salience of individual choice in people’s private life does not equal to absolute freedom from social ties, institutional constraints and normative intervention. The focus should be two-fold. In the end, Prof. Santos looked into the case of Ma Rongrong, a pregnant Chinese woman who committed suicide presumably due to unbearable labor pain after being denied a C-section, and discussed the relationship between birth-giving, authority of hospitals and power of the husband’s family.

Other speakers at the Seminar all gave insightful comments. Prof. Ho discussed the various forms of patriarchs from a Hong Kong perspective and emphasized the interplay of gender and macro politics. Prof. Kuan went into the details of Transforming Patriarchy and pinpointed a contradiction: the forces that constraint and compel are also those that create meaning and generate affection. Prof. Mathews compared the cases of China and Japan from the perspectives of generation wealth difference, state intervention and economic prospect.

A full house!

Prof. Ho

Prof. Kuan

Prof. Mathews

Prof. Santos

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Multiculturalism in Action Project – ICONIC Mums Program Workshop 6 多元文化行動計劃ICONIC媽媽課程工作坊(六)

The ICONIC Mums Program had its sixth workshop “Community Development: Neighborhood Programs Workshop” on 19 August 2017. We visited St. James Settlement in Wan Chai to learn about how the Community Oriented Mutual Economy (COME) has connected and empowered the Wan Chai neighborhood, as well as to brainstorm what we can do for our community project that will kick start after the workshop.
轉眼間ICONIC媽媽課程的工作坊系列已經來到第六次了!在2017819日舉行的 社區發展:鄰舍計劃工作坊,旨在了解聖雅各福群會於灣仔推行的社區經濟互助計劃,認識此項計劃如何連結起並賦權予街坊,也讓我們思考想為自己的社區舉行一個怎樣的社區項目。

The workshop started off with learning how to greet each other in different languages which showed the uniqueness of being an intercultural program. We had a revision on how to greet in Hindi: putting our hands together and say “namaste”. Then, a Pakistani mum taught us how to greet Muslims: by saying assalamu alaykum”, meaning “may God keep you save”.  The sounds of greetings kept warming us up as we practiced “cho sun” (meaning “good morning” in Cantonese) and “ni hao” (meaning “hello” in Putonghua). After the practice, we are all able to greet in various languages!
作為一個跨文化的課程,我們在工作坊開始前先學習如何以不同語言打招呼。首先,我們重溫了如何用印度語打招呼 - 雙手合十說 “Namaste”。然後,其中一位巴基斯坦裔媽媽教我們說 “Assalamu alaykum”,這是穆斯林的問候語,意思為 祝你平安。隨後,我們又學了用廣東話說 早晨,以及用普通話說 早上好。重溫幾次以後,大家都能以幾種語言與朋友打招呼了!
Do you know all these greetings?

Ms. Dora Cheng, a social worker of St. James Settlement, told us that COME has been launched for almost 20 years. Although Hong Kong has faced various economic downturns since 1997, difficulties also created opportunities. Residents in Wan Chai realized the importance of mutual support and community connectedness. COME is formed by residents from all walks of life, who are eager to contribute and participate actively, and as a result various project teams and social enterprises have been established. In addition, the “Time Coupon” system has been introduced. It pioneers the concept of exchanging goods and services by labor hours instead of cash.
接著,聖雅各福群會社工鄭淑貞姑娘為我們介紹COME。不說不知,原來COME已經在灣仔推行了接近二十年。雖然香港自1997年起經歷了不少風雨,但有危也有機,街坊慢慢明白到社區支援與連結的重要性。COME聚集到一班有心的街坊一起參與發展,規模越來越大,現在已成立了不同小組與社會企業。社區貨幣 時分也是COME的一部分,不論你從事哪樣職業,勞動的時間都可以換來同等價值。時分券可以於COME的社區組織換取貨品或服務,真正做到 勞動有價

We were divided into two groups for a community tour to the Ground Works and the Time Coupon Place guided by Dora and a resident Sau Ping. The Ground Works is a social enterprise managed by Wan Chai residents. They sell local organic vegetables, as well as home recipe products such as the Five Elements Radish Cake. The Time Coupon Place is a place where residents can use time coupons to exchange for goods and services. It is also a gathering point for neighbors to stay for a chat and a cup of tea. The strong community bond in Wan Chai was reflected when Dora and Sau Ping kept greeting other residents in the community tour.

Visiting the Time Coupon Place

Handmade sesame candies

Back at the St. James Settlement Building, Sau Ping taught us how to use orange peel, sugar, and water to make garbage enzyme. This product is a multipurpose cleaner which is environmentally friendly. We learned that it is most important to get the precise proportion of the ingredients, and be patient in waiting for the completion of fermentation, which takes three months. All of us are now looking forward to the completion of own handmade garbage enzyme, and we are eager to share the new skills with our friends.

Making garbage enzyme: everyone looked so serious!

The workshop ended with an organic vegetarian lunch prepared by Wan Chai residents. Apart from guiding us to taste the freshness and different tastes of the natural ingredients, Dora explained to us the stories behind these ingredients and dishes. By knowing more about the production process, it seemed that we, as consumers, were reconnected to the land and producers.

Our lunch menu

We were really inspired by the efforts and perseverance of the Wan Chai residents. All of us can’t wait to give a try on our own community project. The ICONIC mums started to design their projects, and everyone is looking forward to seeing each other’s achievement in the closing ceremony in November!