Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Mythicizations of the Nationless: Hong Kong Spectral Temporality

Academic journal article Tamkang Review

Mythicizations of the Nationless: Hong Kong Spectral Temporality

Article excerpt

Introduction

Critical excavation of Hong Kong originalities have proven to be difficult, if not futile, in the myriad trajectories of its cultural configurations. Hong Kong is never enmeshed in any forms of mythical substantiations with historical glamour or nostalgic valor, and it is often mythicization, instead of myths, that hinges on the ebb and flow of Hong Kong temporality. Yet its oscillation is constantly challenged and undermined by discourses of cultural hybridity and mixture that has for long dominated Hong Kong cultural configuration. The city, ever since its emergence from the precolonial, colonial and postcolonial epochs, defies mythical fixation of national essence; yet it is also such defiance that necessitates imaginary compensations for its mythical absence, and it is also this penetrating sense of loss that summons spectral inventions to reclaim a tempo of originality for the city and, most significantly, to serve as an anchorage of temporality in a loose and ephemeral imaginary landscape.

Mythicization is an implicit manifestation of chronological obsession whereas spectrality questions the ontological basis of temporal fixations, and the overlapping of both etches the traces of originality often appropriated for mythic compensation. This is indeed an open invitation to all forms of spectrality in the cultural formations of Hong Kong. Here in this exploration I will first commence with an overview of the functions and formations of myths in communal imagination, and in particular their contributions to a national teleology, followed by the mapping of Hong Kong creativities via the temporal coordinates constituted by the exorcist, and the clairvoyant in their quest for originality and their endeavor for temporal redemption. To locate originality for Hong Kong is to follow the silhouette of the ghosts: first, by centering on the associations between specters and the phantasmagoria of continuity to outline Hong Kong originality, to haunt is also to historicize a community in discordance with national imagination. Second, in the absence of a systematic interpretive framework circumscribing temporality, the originality of Hong Kong is conceived to be an aspect most susceptible to hauntings as the exorcist has no footing in the nationless imagination of Hong Kong.

Death, Mythicization and the Production of Originality

Myths in different cultures are often positioned as the prerequisites of history and the origins of continuity from which narratives after narratives are produced, visualized and disseminated to legitimize their emplotment in a well chiseled national imagination. The myth-making strategies of Hong Kong also dictate the creative impulses of local and foreign writers from the past to the present in aggravating mythical compensation for Hong Kong. The appearance and disappearance of ghost, as manifested through the clairvoyant instead of the exorcist, often regulate the rhythm of Hong Kong temporality and its momentum in defying the spectral logic of a nation. By unearthing the city's temporal redemptions in the creative and critical endeavors of Hong Kong, one is able to perceive the spectral entanglements engendered via nationless haunting in its temporalizing efforts.

If myths are essentially knowledge of the dead (Lefkowitz 353), it also implies that all mythicizing processes are inevitably spectral--to redeem the loss through unreachable yet mandatory knowledge of the dead. With temporal proximity in mind, the farther the temporal distance or the more variegated the temporal complication may possibly enhance the momentum of mythical consolidation in a given community. A cultivation of this knowledge of the dead can be initiated in many forms and directions throughout the ages. As Anderson reiterates in Imagined Communities, "death" as "the last of a whole gamut of fatalities" is the first and foremost step in our imaginings of a nation (10). For imaginative sustainability a nation is often established upon "a secular transformation of fatality into continuity, contingency into meaning" (11). …

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