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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2023
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Book description

What does it mean to be British? To answer this, Multiracial Britishness takes us to an underexplored site of Britishness – the former British colony of Hong Kong. Vivian Kong asks how colonial hierarchies, the racial and cultural diversity of the British Empire, and global ideologies complicate the meaning of being British. Using multi-lingual sources and oral history, Kong traces the experiences of multiracial residents in 1910-45 Hong Kong. Guiding us through Hong Kong's global networks, and the colony's co-existing exclusive and cosmopolitan social spaces, this book uncovers the long history of multiracial Britishness. Kong argues that Britishness existed in the colony in multiple, hyphenated forms – as a racial category, but also as privileges, a means of survival, and a form of cultural and national belonging. This book offers us an important reminder that multiracial inhabitants of the British Empire were just as active in the making of Britishness as the British state and white Britons.


‘Multiracial Britishness is the first book-length work that examines the political, cultural, and social milieu of Britishness in Hong Kong. It is innovative, important, and original in a number of ways - in its focus on Hong Kong, in its effectiveness at centering colonial subjects in the making of empire, and in its introduction of a diverse cast of historical actors, many of whom came from spaces outside of the formal empire.’

Charles V. Reed - author of Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860–1911

‘A most timely book. Vivian Kong shows that Britishness in mid-20th-Century Hong Kong not only involved race but was a kaleidoscopic device/concept that encompassed legal status, cosmopolitan sensibility, convenience, privilege, imperial instrumentality, cultural attributes and a rhetoric to steer Hong Kong away from anti-colonialism. Her analysis is particularly relevant to Britain today.’

Elizabeth Sinn - Author of Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong Kong

‘Conceptually broad and empirically rich, Multiracial Britishness unpacks the complexities and contradictions of a more capacious Britishness in Hong Kong’s uniquely urban, cosmopolitan and diasporic historical setting - with enduring implications, not just for the strained civic fabric of Britain’s former colony, but also that of Britain itself.’

Stuart Ward - author of United Kingdom: A Global History of the End of Britain

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