Where is My Homeland? Mainland Chinese Refugees and Hong Kong Tenement Films during the Cold-War Era

Linda Huixian Ou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is the first in-depth study of Hong Kong tenement films as the embodiment of opposing Cold-War political and ideological forces, scrutinizing the cultural dimension of Cold-War conflicts in Hong Kong. It combines textual analysis with archival research to closely analyze several Hong Kong tenement films of the 1950s, including Home, Sweet Home (1950), The Show Must Go On (1952), The Dividing Wall (1952), Halfway Down (1955), and The Mandarin’s Bowls (1956). The portraits of tenement life in these films reveal a range of sociohistorical problems encountered by the diasporic Chinese communities in post-war Hong Kong. They include war, displacement, mass unemployment, housing shortage, abject poverty, class struggle, gender oppression, left-right ideological confrontations, and the historical traumas and collective memories associated with them. The chapter aims to make clear how the production, circulation, and reception of a series of tenement dramas in 1950s’ Hong Kong cinema were strongly shaped by the ongoing impact of global Cold-War politics and British imperial politics, reflecting Hong Kong’s crucial geopolitical position as a locale of Chinese diaspora and a battlefront of the psychological warfare in Cold-War Asia. It contends that the renderings of refugee experiences, the tales of exile, and the contentious claims of “homeland” were not simply cinematic representations of Hong Kong’s social reality in the 1950s, but strategic narratives and cultural manifestations of political and ideological allegiance, which served a larger political end for the identity politics of overseas Chinese amid the Cold War.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAsia in the Old and New Cold Wars
Subtitle of host publicationIdeologies, Narratives, and Lived Experiences
EditorsKenneth Paul Tan
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789811976810
ISBN (Print)9789811976803, 9789811976834
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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