Hong Kong Camp: The Poetics of Camp through Hong Kong Mass Culture and Cinema

  • CHAO, Shi-Yan (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will research the cultural phenomenon of camp in Hong Kong from the 1960s into the 2000s. Admittedly one of the most elusive ideas in modern culture, camp has a close affiliation with Western gay subculture, but it is not confined to it. While much of current English-language scholarship on camp tends to focus on what camp is and who has access to it (thus the debate over gay camp versus straight/mass camp), these studies, nonetheless, generally foreclose the legitimacy of camp appreciation in non-Western cultures. To initiate a productive discussion on camp in a transcultural framework, my project proposes a discursive approach to camp in both Western and non-Western cultures. I consider camp as a discourse: a descriptive and analytic implement that does not belong to a particular culture, and that travels around and can be adapted to different cultural settings. The kernel of this formulation lies in the different contexts in which camp takes form and effect, as well as the different uses of camp associated with their particular contexts.

To proceed with this project, my research will be conducted in three main directions. Firstly, it will emphasize the socio-historical context particular to Hong Kong from the 1960s onwards. By way of an expansive survey on Hong Kong mass culture that ranges from the rise of youth culture to the impact of television culture, I mean to provide an explanation of the diffusion of the mass camp impulse in the Hong Kong populace, increasingly characterized by a self-conscious, often parodic attitude toward the artifice of conventions, particularly those associated with art, dress, gender behavior, and media representation. This socio-historical context, in my formulation, serves as the material basis of an articulation of camp in modern Hong Kong. Secondly, my research will trace this articulation: the emergence of camp as a discourse in Hong Kong and its changing meaning since the mid-1970s. It will involve an extensive survey of the relevant archival materials, ranging from popular magazines to newspapers, and to academic publications. I will also interview a number of veteran cultural critics on this subject. Thirdly, this project will investigate the particular ways in which mass camp has found expression in Hong Kong mainstream cinema from the 1970s onwards. In so doing, this project serves as an alternative historiography of Hong Kong cinema from the perspective of the mass camp impulse and camp discourse.
Effective start/end date1/01/1730/06/18


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