From invisible to visible : representations and self-representations of Hakka women in Hong Kong, 1900s-present

  • Ka Lo YAU

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


What we perceive as the essential characteristics of Hakka women today are in fact historically constructed and utilized for various purposes by different agents, including Western missionaries, Hakka elites, museum curators and heritage preservationists. This long historical process has made the Hakka women increasingly visible in the public scene. Some scholars argue that it was the men who attempted to manipulate the representations of Hakka women to justify their exploitation of women. As Hung Hsin-lan and Helen Siu have reminded us, the study of Hakka women should be liberated from the lens of exploitation and victimhood and we should position Hakka women in relation to Hakka men to achieve a more balanced analysis. In addition to examining the historical writings about Hakka and Hakka women since the nineteenth century, this thesis focuses on Hong Kong, and also considers the topic through a gender lens, to evaluate the roles that Hakka women have played in the museums and in the surging wave of cultural preservation.

The aim of this thesis is to explain how Hakka women have been represented in various media and what has constituted our current perceptions and (mis)understandings toward Hakka women. While the Hakka women have been singled out to represent Hakka culture and have enjoyed the opportunity to create their self-representations, where have the Hakka men gone? What does it mean by a ‘Hakka’ when the Hakka identity is historically constructed in the first place? The present research adopts a combined historical and anthropological approach to rethink the images of Hakka women and review the interactions between the representations and self-representation of Hakka women in the displays and heritage preservation, which point to the broader themes of the interplays between colonialism and ethnicities, the politics of display, gender studies on exhibition and cultural heritage, and the impacts of global cultural trends on local culture formulation.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of History
SupervisorShuk Wah POON (Supervisor) & Grace Ai-ling CHOU (Supervisor)

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