Exclusivity and cosmopolitanism: multiethnic civil society in interwar Hong Kong

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While recent work has shown that interwar Asian civic associational culture was more plural than previously understood, scholars focus mostly on transnational networks and neglect local associations co-existing in the colonial urban space. We also know little about how internationalist and liberal ideals interacted with notions of racial and national exclusion prevalent in the wider society. To overcome this, this article examines local organizations alongside transnational networks in interwar Hong Kong, in order to fully understand how global trends in the interwar period affected colonial civic culture. Drawing on Freemasonry, Rotary, the League of Fellowship, and the Kowloon Residents’ Association, I discuss the aspirations multiracial urbanites in interwar Hong Kong and their limits. I argue that, while internationalism and colonial hierarchies allowed solidarity to be forged amongst multiracial urbanites and encouraged their civic engagements, racism embedded in the society, rising nationalism, and constitutional constraints put limitations on their aspirations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1302
Number of pages22
JournalThe Historical Journal
Issue number5
Early online date27 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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