The Flâneur/Flâneuse and the Multiple “I”s of the “Local” in Xi Xi’s I City

Dorothy Hiu Hung Tse, Natascha Bruce (Translator)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Since its publication in the mid-1970s, Xi Xi’s novel I City (Wo cheng) has become a classic of Hong Kong literature and the focus of considerable scholarly attention. Since 1997, this attention has shifted away from aesthetic concerns, such as language and structure, toward a discussion of the local. This article continues that discussion, proposing interpretations of the local that go beyond notions of collective identity. The “I” in I City is often understood as a collective “we,” and the optimistic tone and vision of the novel as reflections of the social conditions and political reforms experienced under the British Hong Kong government of the 1970s. Here, in contrast, I suggest that I City deconstructs the imaginary of a linear, continuous historical narrative, and presents the local as fluid and constantly in flux. This is evident in the figure of the flâneur/flâneuse, whose behaviour implies both their detachment from the capitalist city in which they live and their rejection of the ideology of the family and nation-state. I argue that the flâneur/flâneuse participates in the creation of the local through their everyday practice, rather than by submitting themselves to a collective identity.

This essay is an abridged version of a longer article forthcoming from Thoughts and Words (Si yu yan). My thanks to the anonymous reviewers of that publication, for their careful feedback and recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-57
Number of pages8
JournalChinese Literature Today
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

User-Defined Keywords

  • Xi Xi
  • I City
  • the Local
  • Flâneur/ Flâneuse


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