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Troubling American Women

Narratives of Gender and Nation in Hong Kong

Stacilee Ford

Publication Year: 2011

American women have lived in Hong Kong, and in neighboring Macao, for nearly two centuries. Many were changed by their encounter with Chinese life and British colonialism. Their openness to new experiences set them apart both individually and as a group. Equally, a certain "pedagogical impulse" gave them a reputation for outspokenness that sometimes troubled those around them. Drawing on memoirs, diaries, newspapers, film, and other texts, Stacilee Ford tells the stories of several American women and explores how, through dramatically changing times, they communicated their notions of national identity and gender. Troubling American Women is a lively and provocative study of cross-cultural encounters, shedding light on the connections between the histories of Hong Kong and the US, on the impact of Americanization in Hong Kong, and on the ways in which Hong Kong people used stereotypes of American womanhood in popular culture. Troubling American Women will appeal to students and scholars in history, gender and cultural studies and to all readers with an interest in the encounter between China and the West.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

This is a short book with a long history and many people offered assistance and support along the way. I am, first and foremost, indebted to Colin Day, Michael Duckworth, Christopher Munn, and the anonymous readers and excellent team at Hong Kong University Press. Christopher’s arrival on the scene as I entered the final stages of the writing process...

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Introduction: Women, Nation, and the Cross-Cultural Encounter

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pp. 1-16

This book analyzes narratives written by several European American, Chinese American, and “Americanized” Chinese women who lived in Hong Kong and Macao for substantial periods of time during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their narratives constitute an archive of memoirs, diaries, letters, journalistic essays, fiction, interviews, and film. The study highlights the diverse ways in which the cross-cultural encounter led...

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1. “American Girls” in Three Acts: Encounters in Nineteenth-Century Macao and Hong Kong

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pp. 17-56

From the earliest years of the Sino-American encounter, women helped to shape and then communicate “American values” beyond geographical boundaries of the nation. The three acts referred to in the title represent three case studies and types of cultural encounters that took place in the nineteenth century and that foreshadowed what followed. Harriett Low narrates aspects of women’s lives within the merchant community of...

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2. “I’m in the Middle of a War, I’m in the Middle of a Life!”: Women, War, and National Identity

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pp. 57-102

In her memoir China to Me, Emily “Mickey” Hahn recounts her mother’s frequent pleas to her daughter to return to America and “settle down.” In her mind, Hahn composes the exasperated response she wishes she could send: “I’m in the middle of a book; I’m in the middle of a magazine; I’m in the middle of China! I’ll come back when it’s time, and when there’s...

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3. “A Second Voice of America”: Women’s Performances of Nation in Cold War Hong Kong

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pp. 103-140

In the decades following the end of World War II, Hong Kong was a safe harbor for refugees fleeing the political turmoil on the Chinese mainland, a hot bed of ideological protest of various types (pro/anti-Communist, pro/ anti-Kuomintang, pro/anti-colonial), an R & R post for US military personnel fighting in Korea and Vietnam, a site of rapid industrialization, commercialization, and transport, and a Cold War perch from which to...

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4. Home for the Handover: Muted Exceptionalisms in Transnational Times

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pp. 141-178

In the two decades prior to resumption of Chinese sovereignty, many Americans “made themselves at home” in Hong Kong.1 By 1997, there were approximately 40,000 US passport–holders living in the territory; an indeterminate number of whom were Hong Kong Chinese residents seeking a bit of security in case they needed to make a quick exit after the...

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pp. 179-182

The narratives considered in this study prove that there is no such thing as a “typical American woman.” Yet there are threads of connection. All of the texts enrich our understanding of the ways in which notions of gender and national identity are shaped, in part, by the cross-cultural encounter, albeit in highly individual ways. In addition, each story within this diverse...


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pp. 183-214


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pp. 215-234


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9789888053698
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888083114

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 9 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2011