Being in and belonging to the future - food, eclecticism identity in Hong Kong and Macau
Mukta Das (SOAS University of London)
Paper short abstract:
Hong Kong and Macau are counting down to 2047 and 2049 and full integration with China. The cultural uncertainty of this - and what it will mean to be and belong to a port city with eclectic culinary practices in the future - plays out in the daily work of local South Asians cooks.
Paper long abstract:
In 2047 and 2049, Hong Kong and Macau will be fully integrated with China. Up until that point, the Basic Laws which were put into place straight after the handover by Britain and Portugal in the late 1990s continue the cities' open ports for various international passport holders, foods and other substances. Hong Kong and Macau have interpreted and reinterpreted cultural difference with mainland China in these post-colonial times, particularly as socio-economic differences have flattened, and mostly through the language of food, its quality and taste, its sheer abundance and eclecticism, diversity and its safety. There is a great deal of cultural uncertainty of what it will mean to be Cantonese, Macanese, Portuguese, a British National Overseas and a host of other identities after the Basic laws are repealed. Such uncertainties are a daily negotiation, within which food plays a major role in navigating confluences and contradictions offered by ethnolinguistic nationalisms and eclecticism. Examples include the valorisation of tea cafes hybrid staples as working class heritage, the politics of Michelin in Cantonese cities with global culinary ambitions, and in the plans of a new class of South Asian restaurateurs launching or extending global restaurant chains in China. South Asian cooks and South Asian flavours, condiments and materials represent much that is opportunistic and problematic about this temporal space leading up to integration. By exploring the everyday use and sensory impact of their work on daily cultural negotiations in the cities, I examine the temporal culinary mechanics of cultural difference.