Self-fashioned Identities: Art Deco Architecture in Hong Kong as Resistance and Empowerment

Prudence Leung-kwok Lau


This essay argues that certain modern architectural styles, particularly Art Deco, can be understood both as the imposition of power by the colonizer and the demonstration of resistance of the colonized in early-twentieth-century Hong Kong. The study also demonstrates that these buildings are not passive objects but rather subjects that are able to consume the dominating culture to self-fashion and self-represent. Using postcolonial theory, this critical historiography adopts a three-tiered methodology. First, the essay reveals how the architecture formed an interaction between the patron, architect, and the audience, highlighting their interconnected relationships in identity formation. Secondly, the essay will problematize the architectural style, revealing self-fashioning and self-representing of different identities. Third, the essay will critique the dynamics between the dominated-subjugated in colonial Hong Kong. The paper concludes that modes of resistance and empowerment can be identified in the colonial built environment of the period.


Architectural historiography; identity; resistance and empowerment; Art Deco; colonial Hong Kong

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