EVENTS – HK’s Free Monthly Anthropology Talks

Looking for something different to do? 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, Chungking Mansions, 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.

Yesterday’s talk was presented by HKU PhD candidate Richard Abrahams. His topic was: ‘Tourism in Rural China: Its Effect on Place-Based and Group Identities’. Full video – albeit with poor sound – below.

Membership is HK$200 and includes access to the Asian Anthropology Journal.

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Tourism has been a key policy and economic area during China’s post-1978 reform period, being utilised by the State as a tool which both aids with the economic development of rural areas whilst being simultaneously mobilised as a vehicle for the ‘civilising’ of rural ethnic minority toured groups. Consequently, tourism has been responsible for huge changes in the intervening years as China’s rural ethnic minority peoples and landscapes have been foregrounded into nationalistic tourist discourses, providing a counterpoint to rural-urban migration by creating places of contact where China’s rural ethnic minority and urban majority groups can interact.

In this talk I will discuss both the opportunities and problems tourism offers to visited communities, and will describe the ways in which it plays a role in the reconfiguration of group identities, and understandings of ethnicity in modern China amongst both the visitors and the visited.


The Hong Kong Anthropological Society was founded in 1978 in response to a growing interest in Hong Kong in the culture and ethnography of the region. It now has some 120 members in Hong Kong, including professional anthropologists and other academics from Hong Kong’s eight universities, postgraduate and undergraduate students, and interested laypeople from all walks of life.

The Society works in close association with the Hong Kong Museum of History and with the Department of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and organizes regular monthly talks by scholars, professionals, and local experts on all aspects of anthropology. Topics vary from netizens in China’s cyberspace to the struggles of Hong Kong Disneyland, from shamans in Indonesia to Hong Kong’s new Chinese identity, from asylum seekers in Hong Kong to the meaning of taste in wine consumption, ecotourism in Malaysia, diasporic Sikhs, and Sufi musical genres. These talks are followed by informal dinners at a local restaurant, to which all are invited.

The purpose of the Society is to bring anthropology beyond the doors of the academy to a larger public of interested people in Hong Kong and beyond. We seek to bring academics and laypeople together in a common forum, in order to broaden academic anthropology and in order to broaden the understanding of anthropology by people beyond the academe.

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