I’d like to wish all readers of this blog a happy new year, whether you’re reading from India, Israel, Canada, Britain, Hong Kong, or elsewhere in the world.
New Years are typically a time for resolutions – promises kept to a perceived ‘better’ version of ourselves. Instead of embracing the latest fad diet or paying for a new – and expensive – gym membership, I’ve been thinking about alternative resolutions for 2019. Many pertain to this blog: I’ve resolved to post more frequently and write more about Hong Kong, while continuing to cover topics such as Shanghai Refuge and refugee issues more generally.
The start of a new year often prompts reflection, and as part of this appraisal process I’ve been looking through my blog posts from the years 2016, 2017 and 2018. Here’s a summary of my posts so far, many of which reflect the ark of my PhD:
2015 – 2016: In October 2015 I begin my research ‘journey’. Tentatively, and for the first time, I start to piece together the lives of Jewish refugees who fleetingly lived in Hong Kong in the 1930s and 1940s. During these early months the blog is populated by posts about immigration control in Hong Kong, a topic discussed at length by super-star historians such as Agnes Ku and Mark Chi-kwan. I also write about wider ‘Asia Rescue’ literature as my interest is piqued by the release of a film called ‘Rescue in the Philippines’.
Throughout 2015 and 2016 the British media is awash with polarising stories on what becomes known as the European ‘Migrant Crisis’. As of September 2018, one in five migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya have either drowned or disappeared. In June 2016, the United Kingdom votes for Brexit, thanks in part to an anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed by the Leave campaign. (As an aside I’m interested to see the television adaptation of the controversial referendum which aired on Channel 4 today).
In Autumn 2016 I start my month-long fellowship at the American Jewish Archives (AJA). The fellowship prompts a couple of blog posts about the post-war immigration landscape in the United States and life in Shanghai after the war. At the AJA I meet lovely American researchers and attend some interesting lectures, including a talk by Stephen Porter, author of ‘Benevolent Empire’.
2017: In November 2016 and during my time in Ohio, Trump assumes power in the U.S. on a nationalistic and anti-immigration platform. I write a couple of articles on the ‘Modern Refugee’, a piece influenced by Peter Gatrell’s work. I start to think about the incarceration and detention of refugees from a historical perspective – namely the role of camps to detain and control thousands of Chinese refugees in Hong Kong in the 1930s and 1940s. I spend a couple of weeks in New York holed up at the JDC and UN archives during a particularly nasty snow blizzard. I write a couple of pieces about the Jews of Shanghai and Hong Kong (namely the Sassoons and the Kadoories) and Hong Kong’s Portuguese and Indian communities.
2018: In 2018 I think a lot about ‘humanitarianism’. I attend some interesting events on this topic too, including a lecture on the ITS Archive at the Wiener Library, a talk on World Refugee Day and a conference in Switzerland on ‘Dealing with Jewish Refugees During World War Two’. I post a series of blogs on the Shanghai Jewish Youth Association and write about the Jewish community of Tientsin and refugee memory of Shanghai.
So what’s in store for 2019? I hope to write more articles about the history of the Jewish community in Hong Kong, particularly during the Inter War years, as well as some lesser known aspects of Hong Kong’s history.