Whiteness out of place: White parents’ encounters with local Chinese schooling in post-colonial Hong Kong


Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

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We identify a missing narrative about the place of whiteness in post-colonial Hong Kong. Using an anthropological framework developed by Mary Douglas, we show how white migrants who try to integrate their children into local Cantonese medium of instruction schools are challenged by recurring obstacles that highlight their whiteness and signal them as ‘matter out of place’ by transgressing colonial assumptions about whiteness in the territory. In adopting this framework, we reorient the current focus of whiteness studies away from examining the strategies and performances employed by white migrants in the production of whiteness to the regulation of whiteness by the social order. By identifying the absence of an appropriate narrative for these parents in the local education system, we highlight not just the continuity of colonial constructs of whiteness, but also the constraints upon those who try to escape them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number003802611986586
Pages (from-to)209-224
Number of pages16
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


Bibliographical note

Part of the research for this article was funded by the Division of Social Science, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.


  • education
  • ethnic minorities
  • Hong Kong
  • migrants
  • whiteness

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