Louise Ho and the Third Space: Identity Formation in Postcolonial Hong Kong English Literature
Flags and Flowers
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AbstractThis project intends to explore the issue of identity formation in postcolonial Hong Kong with a focus on Homi Bhabha’s theory of the third space and Edward Said’s theory of the intellectual as exile, in conjunction with the poems “Flags and Flowers,” and “Migratory” by Louise Ho. By analysing these poems, this project considers an important instance of how citizens of postcolonial Hong Kong attempt to reclaim their identity in the face of opposing powers – Britain and China. The study will engage with Bhabha’s and Said’s theories to explore the ways in which Louise Ho utilizes related concepts to construct a local identity for Hong Kong. The idea that Hong Kong is a place of exiles populated by people who live “at the edge of things and between places” is a common theme of literary texts in the handover period. Due to this common belief of Hong Kong as a place of exile, hence vulnerable to the colonial and native sovereign’s project of identity reconstruction, most texts in the handover period all demonstrate concerns and anxieties over Hong Kong’s cultural and linguistic autonomy, as well as the fear of a “homogenizing renationalization”. From such a perspective, Hong Kong presents an identity crisis that is often overlooked by postcolonial scholars: the struggle between identifying oneself with the former colonizer and the present sovereign within the native culture itself. While the idea that Hong Kong is a city of exiles constitutes one of the major themes of Louise Ho’s poems, Ho, however, suggests that it is exactly this very being of “difference,” that marks the local distinctive identity of Hong Kong. Foregrounding these common themes as the basis of Ho’s poems, this study argues that by showing the liminality of Hong Kong’s cultural identification – Not quite British, not quite Chinese – Louise Ho proposes the concept of the third space as a possible means for the formation of Hong Kong’s own local identity. To prove my thesis, I shall first begin with a literary review of Hong Kong literature from the handover period. Then, I will draw upon relevant discussions of Edward Said’s discourse of intellectual exile, in conjunction with one of the selected poems “Migratory”; I will then discuss Homi Bhabha’s theory of the third space and its intersection with the poem “Flags and Flowers”; Lastly, I will provide a close analysis of Ho’s poems with particular focus on the ways in which the poems call attention to the fluidity and multiplicity of identity in Post-Handover Hong Kong, as well as the ways in which Ho foregrounds the theoretical approaches of intellectual exile and the third space as possible means for reclaiming and reconstructing Hong Kong’s cultural identity.
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