Title

Kung Fu : negotiating nationalism and modernity

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Cultural Studies

Publication Date

1-1-2001

Volume

15

Issue

3/4

First Page

515

Last Page

542

Keywords

Colonial condition, cultural imagination, hybrid identity, liminal space, kung fu cinema, male body, nationalism, self-negation

Abstract

'Kung fu', as a cultural imaginary consecrated in Hong Kong cinema since the 1970s, was constituted in a flux of nationalism. This paper argues that the kung fu imaginary found in Hong Kong kung fu cinema is imbued with an underlying self-dismantling operation that denies its own effectiveness in modern life, and betrays an 'originary' moment of heterogeneity, an origin of itself as already 'impurely Chinese'. Having been British-colonized, westernized, capitalist-polluted and culturally hybrid, Hong Kong's relation with 'Chineseness' is at best an ambivalent one. This ambivalence embodies a critical significance of Hong Kong as a defusing hybrid other within a dominant centralizing Chinese ideology, which is itself showing signs of falling apart through complex changes imposed by global capital. Hong Kong's kung fu imaginary, which operates in a self-negating mode, is instructive when read as a tactic of intervention at the historical turn from colonial modernity to the city's reluctant return to the fatherland. The kung fu imaginary enacts a continuous unveiling of its own incoherence, and registers Hong Kong's anxious process of self-invention. If Hong Kong's colonial history makes the city a troublesome supplement, then the 'Hong Kong cultural imaginary' will always be latently subversive, taking to task delusive forms of 'unitary national imagination'.

DOI

10.1080/095023800110046687

Print ISSN

09502386

E-ISSN

14664348

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd

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Full-text Version

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Recommended Citation

Li, S. L. (2001). Kung Fu: Negotiating nationalism and modernity. Cultural Studies, 15(3/4), 515-542. doi: 10.1080/095023800110046687