This dissertation examines the ways in which Hong Kong identity is discursively constructed through banal everyday instances, which do not, on their face, speak to issues of political identity. Fifteen years after Hong Kong's change in sovereignty, the embracing and acceptance of a Hong Kong identity is at an all time high. Despite efforts by Beijing and the Hong Kong government to increase cooperation and integration with Mainland China, Hong Kongers are increasingly distinguishing themselves from the Chinese nation. Typical explanations for such divisions focus on issues such as universal suffrage, school curricula, and press freedom. In contrast, this study demonstrates that divisions in identity can also be seen in (1) the politics, practices, and discourses of the Hong Kong-Mainland China border; (2) discussions on redevelopment and heritage preservation; and (3) the commodification of nostalgic everyday items such as toys, clothing, and household goods.
While not a nation per se, this dissertation finds that Hong Kong's strong place-based identity shares many similarities with conceptions of nationalism and national identities, and exhibits what I refer to as "near-nationalism." Similar to many other nations, a founding myth is central to understanding the context of Hong Kong identity. This dissertation demonstrates how what was a colonial myth about Hong Kong's founding and development entrenched in the colonial power's ideology became decolonized, localized and embodied by Hong Kongers. The new formulation of the myth emphasizes the work ethic, go-getting spirit and upward mobility of a displaced community of immigrants coming together under hardships to build a global city. The ideological aspects of globalization and neoliberalism make up the core of this myth and, by way of that, Hong Kongers' self-understanding. The paradox is that despite increasing similarities between Mainland Chinese cities and Hong Kong, the myth remains an integral part of the everyday debates and heightened political moments in which Hong Kongers distance themselves from Mainland China.