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Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong
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Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  141 ratings  ·  18 reviews
There is nowhere else in the world quite like Chungking Mansions, a dilapidated seventeen-story commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong’s tourist district. A remarkably motley group of people call the building home; Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, Nepalese heroin addicts, Indonesian sex workers, and traders and asylum see ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 30th 2011 by University Of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Lil Sparrow
A group of Hong Kongers enter the Chungking Mansions, in search of "real curry" perhaps.

They huddle closely together, unused to being the minority. Some of them stare openly at all the foreign faces, none of which are white. Others carefully avoid eye contact, especially the girls, unused to such open scrutiny. Unconsciously, they clutch their purses closer, not knowing that travelers from various corners of the world freely leave thousands of dollars on counters while they carefully count out
Fraser Kinnear
Back in 2007, I was backpacking with my friend Linda. We had just arrived in Hong Kong, and didnt know where we were going to stay. I noticed in my travel book a large concentration of hostels in one city block in Kowloon, so we headed there.

To our surprise, the hostels were all located in one enormous building, Chungking Mansions. Immediately after getting out of the cab, we were approached by a small South Asian boy who saw our backpacks and offered to us what sounded like a reasonable rate fo
Jon Cassie
Mathews has written a fascinating ethnography/biography of one of the most interesting buildings anywhere - Chungking Mansions. This seventeen story building is in the heart of Hong Kong's business district and is notable for the role it plays int eh world of global commerce - it's like a mini United Nations in the heart of perhaps the most neoliberal society in the world. Mathews is a skilled ethnographer and as a researcher who also is interested in the way single buildings function as sites o ...more
Eric Stone
Fascinating. At times it makes a short detour into academic writing - the guy is, after all, a professor and this is the result of his research - but even that can't ruin how utterly fascinating this book is, especially if you've ever spent much time in Hong Kong and are familiar with Chungking Mansions. A truly fantastic journey into the world of globalization on the small, third world market level - as opposed to the huge multinational corporate level that we usually read about. If you're inte ...more
Henri Black
Been awhile since I read it. Was interested in Chungking Mansions since I remember walking past it in Kowloon on two visits to Hong Kong and thinking it seemed out of place in the city with the Peninsula Hotel not too far way. Gordon Mathew's book seems academic, and gets repetitive quickly. I doubt he saw the whole picture of Chungking Mansions. Chris Thralls book "Eating Smoke: One Man's Descent Into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong's Triad Heartland" describes a much seedier side of Chungking Mans ...more
L.A. Starks
I liked this book so well I reread it, a rarity. Finished again 9/3/2013.
I was excited to read this academic study of Chungking Mansions, one of my favorite places in Hong Kong. The author gives a brief history and a fascinating in-depth study of the building's importance to the Sub-Saharan African economy. Since I left HK in 1998, the dynamics of the Mansions has changed considerably and that's reflected in this book. The author didn't write about the South Asians' passport status before the Handover, and I would have liked to read about that since it was quite an i ...more
I think of Chungking Mansions a sketchy place with good Indian food, reflecting the attitudes of the ethnic Chinese locals from whom I derive most of my knowledge of Hong Kong. Gordon Mathews, an anthropology professor from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, offers a much more interesting and nuanced look at this dilapidated building in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui, one of Hong Kong’s busiest tourist districts. Based on years of research while hanging out in the building in the late 2000s, he w ...more
The title and concept grabbed me--about a housing development in Hong Kong that serves as a meeting place of the developing and developed world. The problem is in the execution. It is an ethnography written by an academic and so the writing is dense and plodding. There are interesting stories mixed in and his insights are keen, but the book was a chore to read at a little over 200 pages.
Helpful in getting a deeper sense of Hong Kong as a new resident--the world portrays this place as one that's all moving sidewalks and glassy skyscrapers, and Chungking Mansions is anything but. I learned a ton about what the author calls low-level globalization, as well as the economic, racial, and democratic structures in Hong Kong. Doesn't read the smoothest, but the content was fascinating.
As others have mentioned, this book is written very much like an academic paper. It's not the most magnetic read, but the information contained within it is interesting and insightful. I wish that I had read it before staying at Chungking Mansions last year as I feel I would have gained more from the experience. It's a good book to expand your awareness of the world and explore the process of micro-globalization. Overall, a worthwhile read and particularly rewarding for those who have visited or ...more
A very well researched book about Chungking Mansions, especially with the different personal accounts. The only drawback was the last part about the future of Chungking mansions. Then again, to be fair some things have changed since the publication of the book. Overall a good read especially if you want to know more about Chungking Mansions
I stayed at Chungking Mansions a few times.
The first time was in 1986 on the way to Japan.
Another time was in 1990 when I was just starting a 4 month HK to London overland trip.
According to the book, the place has not changed much, just the nationalities of some of the people trading there.
Burton Li
Masterpiece on one of the most mysterious building of Hong Kong. Truly reflects the importance of this place as a logistical hub for International goods traders and travellers alike. It is a great experience to be able to unveil this mystery from first person case study narratives.
very much written like a dissertation but interesting enough to forgive its "tell don't show" style. I've been puzzling over the chungking mansions since first encountering it as a kid, then a teenager and eventually university student. my questions are finally answered!
Jason Mahoney
This book made me want to watch the film Chungking Express; when I visit HK I'll definitely at least eat a meal here.
fascinating ethnography of one of Hong Kong's (and the world`s) most globalized buildings
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