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UGED3206 Women’s Narratives and Hong Kong History
Lecture: Thursdays 02:30 p.m. – 04:15 p.m.
Tutorial: Thursdays 04:30 p.m. – 05:15 p.m.
Dr. SO Alison Yam Wah
Medium of Instruction
(UGED3206 is double-coded with GDRS3011.)
In 21st century post-colonial Hong Kong, the preservation of ‘collective memory’ of this fast-changing city has become an everyday discourse. From award-winning movies, heart-warming testimonies, tabloid stories to Facebook groups and social campaigns, we have been consuming, constructing, and circulating narratives of ‘the past’. This act of remembering and exploring ‘our history’ questions a mainstream Hong Kong story of success demonstrated by economic development and material wealth, and attempts to identify discontinuities, gaps and silenced voices in the dominating narrative. It has also prompted reflections on the relation between narrative and identity — personal, collective, and spatial — in historical inquiry, and in what ways the writing of history has been shaped by disparate ideals, values, web of relations and power.
This course will revisit Hong Kong’s history through the exploration of narratives documenting women, a group often made invisible in history writing, as social actors in the fabric of colonial Hong Kong. From elites’ households to textile factories, from rural villages, western-district brothels to mid-levels convents, schools and hospitals, women of different generations have worked as caregivers, breadwinners, pioneers, and educators while contesting the prescribed subordinate status as objects of exploitation in a patriarchal society. Drawing from a wide range of sources, including archival documents, published biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, family histories, school histories, and oral histories, this course will seek to introduce a multi-faceted history of colonial Hong Kong with women as the focus of inquiry. The discussion of women’s narratives will be situated in respective historical contexts linking the personal to social, political and economic changes in Hong Kong under colonial rule. It will also discuss the use of auto/biographies and oral histories as a methodology in historical research investigating the relations between memory, self and identity.
The course resonates with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 by directly engaging in critical reflections that help students work towards the SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).
It is anticipated that on completing the course, students will be able to:
- identify major areas and topics regarding the study of women’s lives and experiences in Hong Kong history
- analyse and discuss in what ways gender has been an organizing force in shaping families, professions, education, and social movements in Hong Kong history
- examine one’s self identity in complex historical and social contexts
- evaluate competing narratives of a ‘Hong Kong Story’ from a gender and historical perspective
- apply first-hand knowledge and skills in writing history relating the personal to the social, cultural, political and economic contexts
- recognize the interconnections between different sources of inequality and oppression
- critically engage with notions of social justice and social transformation