EVENTS – Free Anthropology Talk by Chungking Mansions Expert

HK’s resident Chungking Mansion’s expert Gordon Mathews spoke at the Anthropology Society on September 11th, at the TST History Museum.

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Subject: Customs, Copies, and Smuggling: Secrets of Low-End Globalization in China and Africa 

Video of the presentation below (apologies for the poor angle/sound!)

“For the past seven years I have been interacting with traders who carry copy or knock-off goods from China back to Africa. In this talk I examine how traders of these goods working in Guangzhou’s Xiaobei or Sanyuanli districts or in Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions, deal in their informal circuits across the globe, including getting goods out of China and through customs in Africa. For these traders, the issue is not morality—they believe that their trade in copies and knockoffs helps people in their countries—but rather of fate. The trader can try to guard against fate by being very careful and paying off the right people. However, ultimately customs and the law, like God or Allah, follow their own mysterious paths, paths that the trader can only hope to avoid.”

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Gordon teaches anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and is a highly entertaining and charismatic speaker. Last year, Mathews spoke to media across the world about his new book on Chungking Mansions, ‘Ghetto at the Center of the World’.

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image via via


The Hong Kong Anthropological Society was founded 34 years ago and offers free lectures to the public every month. Previous topics have included human trafficking,reactions to the Manila Hostage Crisis, individualism in mainland state schools, racism, minorities in Hong Kong, container ship sailors and even the migration patterns of Chinese gay sex workers. The highly-accessible lectures attract a wide mix of English-speaking expats and locals from around the city, amateur anthropologists and seasoned academics alike.

Click here for a video of a previous lecture by Richard Abrahams.

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