Ghetto at the Center of the World by Gordon Mathews — a Professor of Anthropology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, reveals the battered and bruised Chungkin Mansions; a seventeen-story commercial and residential building situated in Hong Kong’s tourist district.
The book discusses the underlying mysteries behind the façade of Chungkin Mansions, which will surprise most and intrigue the seasoned anthropologist. It explores the building through its history, its inhabitants, the goods that pass through it, and the businesses that occupy it.
The diversity that lives among its walls is remarkable. From Chinese guesthouse workers to Nepalese heroin addicts, traders to asylum seekers, shop owners to temporary workers; all of whom hail from parts of Asia and Africa. You might even find the odd backpacker or two renting a room.
In a nutshell, its possibly the most globalized spot on the planet.
Most of us in the western hemisphere are unaware of the double truths behind globalization, and how it impacts millions of others in unimaginable ways; which have all been depicted in the pages of Mathews recent book.
Chungking Mansions is just an example of how millions of others encounter globalization. Mathews himself calls it “an island of otherness in Hong Kong.” Many of these people look to Hong Kong as their America, where their dreams of success are possible.
Mathew’s terms this phenomena has “low-end globalization” where poor traders come to do business face-to-face and make cash transactions. A far cry from the major corporations we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 15 years.
Wherever they come from Chungking Mansions residents are looking for the same things; cheap accommodation and a city where visa rules are lenient thus making Hong Kong an ideal place for the wandering tradesmen.