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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Built Space, Cinema, and the Ghostly Global City

Esther M. K. Cheung.

In the recent discourse on globalization, there emerged an increased interest in the articulation of the relation between spectrality and globality. In a critical review of scholarships on architectural space and global processes (Anthony Vidler, Frederic Jameson, Henri Lefebvre and others), this paper attempts to theorize the intricate relations among built space, cinema and the changing city. By focusing on the history and cinematic representations of Hong Kong government housing estates in selected Hong Kong films (e.g. Hong Kong filmmaker Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong (1997) and The Longest Summer (1998) ), it seeks to explore how the global city haunts us. This paper can also be regarded as a modest attempt to write a spatial history of Hong Kong public housing estates, which in fact has been an inseparable but unglamorous part of the global processes. If "the history of spaces", as Michel Foucault puts it, is also "the history of powers," the history of Hong Kong public housing estates in Fruit Chan's ghostly global city is "the history of powerlessness."


Esther M. K. Cheung  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Assistant Professor
Comparative Literature
University of Hong Kong

Esther M. K. Cheung is Assistant Professor of Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong. Her publications include topics on identity in Hong Kong films, pop song lyrics, literary and historical writings. With Stephen Yiu-wai Chu, she has co-edited a volume of essays on Hong Kong literature titled Xiang-gang Wen-xue@ Wen-hua Yan-jiu [Hong Kong Literature as/and Cultural Studies] (Oxford UP, 2002)).

  • Spectrality
  • Globality
  • Built Space
  • Cinema
  • Power and Powerlessness
Person as Subject
  • Fruit Chan

(Virtual Presentation, English)