The dual-flâneur: a new methodology for ‘Gweilo’ Hong Kong writing

Lucy Hamilton

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Exploring the de-colonial potential of English language Hong Kong writing by British expatriate writers, I address power structures that lead British expatriate writers to 'marginalise' post-colonial Hong Kong. Martin Booth, in 'adventure' narrative Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood (2005), exerts authorial authority, demarcating social spaces, and reinforcing colonial power dynamics. I compare Booth's narrator with Teju Cole's German-Nigerian immigrant narrator, Julius, in his New York novel Open City (2011), who seeks to subvert social super-structures. However, both authors occupy privileged positions, as their narrators embody characteristics of the Baudelairean flâneur: assuming critical distance and 'ordering' spaces. This critique informs my own creative Hong Kong writing, as a British expatriate. My new 'dual-flâneur' methodology disrupts the assumed authority of narrator and author. I draw partly on techniques used by Cole, and Hong Kong writers such as Xi Xi and Leung Ping-Kwan, who question the narrator's ability to access 'reality' through language. My methodology interweaves memory and immediate experience, populating the present with two parallel observers, the narrator's past and present 'selves'. This facilitates: 1) self-critique; and 2) disruption of the flâneur's central position. I illustrate my methodology, focalising extracts of my own creative writing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-156
Number of pages11
JournalNew Writing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Gweilo
  • Hong Kong
  • Post-colonial
  • flâneur
  • narrative authority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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