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There is nowhere else in the world quite like Chungking Mansions, a dilapidated seventeen-story commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong's tourist district. A remarkably motley group of people call the building home; Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, Nepalese heroin addicts, Indonesian sex workers, and traders and asylum seekers from all over Asia and Africa live and work thereeven backpacking tourists rent rooms. In short, it is possibly the most globalized spot on the planet. But asGhetto at the Center of the Worldshows us, a trip to Chungking Mansions reveals a far less glamorous side of globalization. A world away from the gleaming headquarters of multinational corporations, Chungking Mansions is emblematic of the way globalization actually works for most of the world's people. Gordon Mathews's intimate portrayal of the building's polyethnic residents lays bare their intricate connections to the international circulation of goods, money, and ideas. We come to understand the day-to-day realities of globalization through the stories of entrepreneurs from Africa carting cell phones in their luggage to sell back home and temporary workers from South Asia struggling to earn money to bring to their families. And we see that this so-called ghettowhich inspires fear in many of Hong Kong's other residents, despite its low crime rateis not a place of darkness and desperation but a beacon of hope. Gordon Mathews's compendium of riveting stories enthralls and instructs in equal measure, makingGhetto at the Center of the Worldnot just a fascinating tour of a singular place but also a peek into the future of life on our shrinking planet.
Gordon Mathews 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, coauthor of Hong Kong, China: Learning to Belong to a Nation, and coeditor of several books.
Table of Contents
Prelude: A Note on Hong Kong
Place: Introducing Chungking Mansions
ôGhetto at the Center of the Worldö
Why Chungking Mansions Exists and Why It Matters
My Own Involvement
Owners and Managers
How These Different Groups Interact
Goods: The Passage of Goods in Chungking Mansions
Taking Advantage of Buyers
Manufacturers and Middlemen
Tricks and Travails of a Phone Stall
Varieties of Traders
The Generation Gap among Traders
Techniques of Traders
The Lure of China
The Perils of Customs
The Significance of Goods and Traders
Laws: The Omnipresent Shadow of the Law
Conflicts Within and Beyond the Law
The Role of Police
Visas and Residence Rights
Asylum Seekers and the Law
ôRealö and ôFakeö Asylum Seekers
The Lives of Asylum Seekers
The Changing Treatment of Asylum Seekers
Future: Changing Imaginations of Chungking Mansions
How Chungking Mansions Transforms People
The Future of Chungking Mansions/The Future of the World
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