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Live Sociology 2: Thinking Visually

28/04/2008

City_of_darkness_cover_2
On Saturday I went to the second Live Sociology workshop – this time at the University of Manchester.  In the afternoon session, Caroline Knowles (Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, London) and Douglas Harper (Professor of Sociology at Duquesne, University Pittsburgh) previewed their forthcoming book Hong Kong: Migrants Lives and Landscapes (Chicago University Press), a collection of photos and interviews examining the intersections between British and South East Asian migrants in the urban landscape of contemporary Hong Kong.  The book’s publication date is some way off (hence no links here), however hearing their thoughts on the collaboration, combining images and words, and the extent of the sociological process in editorial and production management was fascinating.  In particular, it was the logistical nuts and bolts of the project which proved were particularly interesting. This, along with the contrary visual and literal perspectives of Harper and Knowles made the back-stage presentation so illuminating.

The book also immediately put me in mind of City of Darkness – Life in Kowloon Walled City, a book which uncovers Hong Kong interiors (now vanished).  For City of Darkness authors Ian Girard and Greg Lambot spent four years exploring the notorious Walled City of
Kowloon
(in Hong Kong). This city was a tiny Chinese enclave within British Hong Kong for decades before its clearance and demolition in 1992.  With over 320
photographs, 32 extended interviews, and essays on the City’s history and
character, this book is not only an informative glimpse of a now vanished
landmark but a sensitive and penetrating portrait of a unique community.  Knowles and Harper have not had the same time for their collaboration, however, they identify an intersection of two distinct cultures and communities similarily located in a distinct time and place.

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