Borders Inside and Out: Representing the Border across cultures

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Michael O'Sullivan/Chinese University of Hong Kong
contact email: 

Borders Inside and Out: Representing the Border across cultures


Peter Leary’s recent Unapproved Routes (2017) links the work of the Irish Society (formed in 1610) in its work of colonizing, marking out Derry and the land of the Foyle, with the work of its contemporary The East India Trading Company and its history of colonisation. Hong Kong and its ever-shifting borders were conjured by the work of this company, borders overseen by seven Irishmen who travelled to Hong Kong in the nineteenth century to act as Governors there for the British Empire. It was a man from Limerick, Henry Arthur Blake, who oversaw the shifting of the Hong Kong border to take in the New Territories. His troops fought a bloody colonialist campaign – known as the Six-Day War - against the local Chinese punti clans who resisted the takeover in 1899.  Hong Kong is the city with the longest coastline in the world (733km) and it is one of the world’s most archipelagic cities with 261 islands. It also forms, with Mainland China, the world’s busiest border regions. This border is being softened in many ways – chiefly economic – in recent years through a Belt initiative. It is therefore a suitable location from which to return to the border. Hong Kong’s people have had to deal with an ever-shifting geographical and topographical self-awareness with the border and its borderlands being redrawn on three occasions in history while the land and sea borders became ever more porous and yet ever more defining of Hong Kong people’s identity. The region is consistently named in history and literature in terms of its geographical features and the borders it belongs to, such as Fragrant Harbour, The Pearl River Delta, Cathay and, most recently, The Bay Area.

However, Hong Kong is still firmly lodged in the international imagination as a crowded, metropolitan city of high-rises. The geographical imagination of Hong Kong and the geographical parameters of enquiry into Hong Kong culture remain largely untapped. While other regions consistently examine their peoples in terms of how the landscapes and topographies of borders influence their practices, psyche and literatures, this relationship is underexamined in the Hong Kong context. This symposium asks whether Hong Kong people are left with an underdeveloped regional ‘sense of place’. Moving out from the site of Hong Kong this symposium builds on the representation of literary and cultural geographies of border regions from Ireland to India, and from Catalonia to California so as to examine the close relationship through history between the border – urban, suburban and rural - and the practices, psychology and literatures of the peoples. It calls on writings in many languages and dialects. It aims to plot an interactive map of regional relations between literature and geography.

The symposium builds on, and feeds into, recent work in literary and cultural geography, eco-criticism, ecological responsibility, the life sciences and environmentalism and looks back to and revives an often untapped ‘romantic’ and ‘pastoral’ spirit at the heart of Hong Kong commercial and religious culture that sees shrines to such land and sea gods as Tudigong (The God of the Land) and Tin Hau (Goddess of the Sea) and others in many regions and in many shops and businesses. The Borderlands will be an especially important area of investigation for this study. Many other regions such as Ireland have consistently defined their peoples as hybrid or liminal due to the fact that a “border” and borderlands have been so integral to the regional consciousness; however, there has been no sustained study of notions such as liminality and hybridity in the Hong Kong conscience and this is important for such topics as cultural healing and reconciliation that can look beyond a concentration on any strain of insular individualism, peninsular exceptionalism as well as cultural and regional-based conflict towards archipelagic commutuality.

Speakers includes:


Dr. Maureen Ruprecht Fadem

City University of New York / Kingsborough, USA.


Dr. Mary O’Malley Madec,

Villanova University, USA.


Rev’d Dr. Christine O’Dowd-Smyth,

Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland.




We seek papers for this 2-day symposium on Sept. 21-22 at the Department of English of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on the following themes and we are open to other topics related to borders:


How the Belt and Road initiative is ‘softening’ the border

Borders and Belts: New Rites of Passage

Eco-criticism and the border

Environmental aspects of the border consciousness

The economics of borders

Hybridity, liminality and borderland regions

Representing war and peace at the border

Peace and reconciliation studies

International relations

Trade and commerce across the border

Language and identity


Gender and identity in the borderlands

The politics of exchange across borders

The border in literature and culture


Please send 300-word abstracts by June 30th to