Hong Kong Baptist University
Hong Kong SAR

Dr. Allison Hui is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research focuses on the intersection of mobilities, practices and everyday life, and has included examinations of tourism, second homes, leisure (birdwatching, patchwork quilting, leisure walking, Ashtanga yoga), and new media art projects. This work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Culture, Tourist Studies, and several edited books including the forthcoming Handbook of Mobilities. More information can be found at allisonhui.com.

Networked materialities and power in the changing lives of Hong Kong’s return migrants

Though people’s status as migrants is tied to the event of relocating from one country to another, the repercussions of this event continue long after, with changes, conflicts and transnational connections that are lived out in the context of everyday lives. Studying and theorizing migration therefore requires an attention to the everyday practices that structure routines, as well as the multiple mobilities upon which these practices depend. The multiple mobilities of migrants’ lives can be understood not only in terms of diverse flows of objects and communications, but also the potential for repeated relocations. Obviously people’s mobility does not cease after migration, and can evolve to include moves to new countries, returns to previous homes, or cyclical patterns of seasonal migration. In this longer-term perspective, migration is about more than simply moving from A to B, and therefore discussions of adaptation and integration need to be supplemented by an attention to the periodic transformations and changes in everyday life and everyday practices. This paper draws upon a qualitative study of how the everyday lives of return migrants living in Hong Kong have changed over the course of migration and subsequent return. By focusing in particular on the materialities of migration, it considers the dynamics of power related to changing everyday practices. On one hand, migrants have some control over the objects that become part of their distributed, mobile bodies, as evidenced in the processes by which they select and move possessions to a new home. However, the ability to maintain everyday practices in a new location is also affected by global and local infrastructures, which can become obstacles creating uneven access to resources. The networked materialities of everyday life are therefore bound up in these shifting dynamics of power, and present particular challenges to the maintenance of valued practices.