MRI Forum 13

"Chinese Urban Culture and the Ruins of Macau"

by Professor Jeremy Tambling, The University of Hong Kong

Language: English  
Transcript: to view


Summary of the Presentation


The present century bids well to be the century of 'greater China', and of a new orientation of cultural values and of capital towards China and Asia in general. One feature of the success of contemporary China is its megacities, which mark out a new confidence and a sense of advance into the future within the country. This presentation tries to read some aspects of the past and the present of Macau, and of Macau in comparison with Hong Kong, onto that confidence in the present and the future. It uses the poetry of Baudelaire, the work of Dickens on the nineteenth century city, and the deconstructive writings of Jacques Derrida. Above all, drawing on critical theories derived from Walter Benjamin, who is taken here as a theorist of the urban, this presentation asks what symbolic value may also be attached to the ruins of Macau. They have recently become very much a part of the city's 'heritage' and part of a museum-culture. So, what may be learned from seeing the city as ruins? How may such ruins be conceptualised? And how do ruins help the city and those who live in city-spaces to think about its future? This presentation approaches the archive of history only to ask more questions about where we are in the present, and how the culture of the city may be read.

Profile of the Speaker

Jeremy Tambling writes extensively on nineteenth and twentieth centuries culture, and on critical theory, in books and articles. His most recent book is on the poet William Blake, Blake's Night Thoughts (2004). Before that, he wrote on literary theory: Becoming Posthumous: Life and Death in Literary and Cultural Studies and Lost in the American City: Dickens, James and Kafka (both 2001), and on literature of the early modern period: Allegory and the Work of Melancholy: The Late Medieval and Shakespeare (2004).