Title

Hong Kong undercover : an approach to ‘collaborative colonialism’

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies

Publication Date

2008

Volume

9

Issue

4

First Page

522

Last Page

542

Keywords

gangster films, structure of feeling, undercover, genre, city, colonialism, collaboration, Hong Kong

Abstract

Early Hong Kong colonial history offers a distinct angle for understanding the exceptional circumstances in which a place was colonized by both the British and their Chinese collaborators. The term ‘collaborative colonialism’ characterizes a political‐cultural formation where descriptions of flows and trajectories of forces may be more helpful than history in illuminating the colony’s murky pasts. Full of treacheries, conspiracies, betrayals and mistrust, such pasts can also help to explain the popularity of ‘undercover’ figures in Hong Kong’s movies. At risk of losing his true identity, the undercover figure was received as a social victim in the early 1980s’ ‘new wave’ that followed the legacy of social realism. To feed the appetite for gang heroism, this ‘victim’ soon transformed into a tragic hero agonized by moral anxieties. Yet the frame imposed by the police‐gangster genre did not stop it from being used as a vehicle to reflect on Hong Kong’s geo‐political situation: a place located in‐between different political projects beyond the locals’ control, and gripped by the relentless march of policed‐managerial modern order. A twist in the 1990s gave the undercover figure a cynicist and comedic turn. Postmodern celebrations of witty betrayal can be read as rewriting the undercover story to reinscribe Hong Kong’s fate: released from narcissistic heroism, new undercover images responding to the 1997 transition took identity less as a matter of authenticity than of performance. Unravelling this historically‐embedded structure of feelings shows how the way had long been paved for the success of the award‐winning series Infernal Affairs, extending a deeper reach into the local politics of memory and time.

DOI

10.1080/14649370802386412

Print ISSN

14649373

E-ISSN

14698447

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2008 Taylor & Francis

Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version

Recommended Citation

Law, W. S. (2008). Hong kong undercover: An approach to ‘collaborative colonialism’. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 9(4), 522-542. doi: 10.1080/14649370802386412