“In this wonderful book Gordon Mathews takes on an intriguing project: daily life as it is lived, articulated, dreamed, denied, regretted, and defended in a rather run-down but very public building in Hong Kong. The residents of Chungking Mansions are economically blocked from the rest of the city and often racially discriminated against, so how do such marginalized people survive, much less prosper? This is the conundrum at the heart of Ghetto at the Center of the World. Mathews tackles it by providing a vivid description of the people who live their lives in the building’s dimly lit hallways, restaurants, and shops, and by analyzing the larger material and political forces at work. The resulting account is as informative and revealing as it is entertaining.”
William Jankowiak, author of Sex, Death, and Hierarchy in a Chinese City
“Chungking Mansions is a microcosm of globalization but with a special twist: it shelters and nurtures the small-time players who inhabit the lower tiers of transnational capitalism. Postcolonial Hong Kong remains a platform for suitcase entrepreneurs who travel the world in pursuit of profit and business connections. The Mansions may seem seedy and dangerous to the titans who run Hong Kong, but, as Mathews’s account makes clear, it is a paradise for business travelers on a minimal budget. Anyone who seeks insights into the soft underbelly of global capitalism should read this book.”
James L. Watson, coauthor of Village Life in Hong Kong
Ghetto at the Center of the World
Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong
by Gordon Mathews
|Publication Date: July 15, 2011 ||$19.00 • £12.50 |
|International publication date: August 08, 2011 ||978-0-226-42578-8 |
Welcome to Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong, a ramshackle commercial and residential building in the heart of the tourist district, a haven for adventurous backpackers, and possibly the most globalized place in the world. A polyglot, polyethnic, poly-everything group of people call the place home; Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, Nepalese junkies, Indonesian sex workers, and traders and asylum seekers from all over Asia and Africa live and work there.
In Ghetto at the Center of the World we get to see the way globalization works for most people in the world. Far from the antiseptic headquarters of multinational corporations, Gordon Mathews’s intimate, gritty portrayal of the building’s residents reveals their role in the international circulation of goods, money, and ideas. The day-to-day reality of globalization comes to light through the stories of workers
struggling to earn money—legally or otherwise—to send back home. And while Mathews shows us lives lived on the edge, we also see that this so-called ghetto—feared by many of the city’s other residents, despite its low crime—is not a place of darkness and desperation but a beacon of hope.
Mathews’s collection of riveting stories enthralls and instructs, making Ghetto at the Center of the World not just a fascinating tour of a unique place but also a peek into the future of our shrinking planet.
is professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Global Culture/Individual Identity: Searching for Home in the Cultural Supermarket
and What Makes Life Worth Living? How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds
. He is available for interviews. Please contact Robert Hunt at 773-702-0279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.