Hong Kong’s Nature: A cultural history of environmental transformations and landscape discourses from British colonization to the ecological crisis

Department: Landscape Architecture
Research Centre: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities Initiative
Active Dates: 19 November 2015 to 31 December 2018

Project title:
Hong Kong’s nature: a cultural history of environmental transformations and landscape discourses from British colonization to the ecological crisis.

Principal Investigator: Maxime Decaudin

Abstract:

Situated within the expanding field of landscape studies initiated by J. B. Jackson as well as participating in the elaboration of a local identity, this project mainly consists of writing an environmental history of Hong Kong. By contrast with most of Hong Kong historical research which focuses on political and economic events, it emphasizes on the formation of the place itself through the study of the transformation of geology (quarries and reclamation), flora (botanic exchange, reforestation and agriculture) and fauna by different stakeholders at several periods ranging from pre-colonial to present times through different phases of colonization. Drawing from the pictorial definition of landscapes, this study doesn’t only describe the transformation of the physical appearance of the environment but also recounts an iconographic history of Hong Kong landscapes, revealing the meaning the environment possesses to populations locally and across the empire. The large amount of sources from geographical, ecological, geological and anthropological studies of the territory combined with its relatively restricted size, allow this research to fulfil two objectives. First, in terms of colonial history and following the approach proposed by Robert Peckham, this investigation aims at challenging the idea according to which the colonizer imposes its own culture and values to the colonized population by revealing the negotiation and exchanges at work in the formation of Hong Kong landscapes both physically and in terms of meaning and symbolic values. Second, following the example of symmetrical anthropology, the case study of Hong Kong, with its multicultural population (mostly Chinese and European under specific power dynamics) and its advanced stage of development (hypermodern landscapes), offers the opportunity to question some of the definitions of the concept of landscape such as its role within the modern project redefined by Bruno Latour, including its effectivity in understanding and reading (Sébastien Marot) the environment produced by modernity (suburbs, infrastructure, polluted or ecologically protected landscapes, etc…) as well as its anthropological value in different cultural contexts and at different periods of history in the continuation of Philippe Descola’s work.

 

 

Enlarge Photo: Hong Kong’s Nature: A cultural history of environmental transformations and landscape discourses from British colonization to the ecological crisis 1
UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG
FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE