UChicago launches study abroad program in Hong Kong

This spring, the University of Chicago will offer its first undergraduate study abroad program in Hong Kong. The 10-week program, entitled “Hong Kong: Colonizations,” will include three Civilizations courses and one Mandarin Chinese course, and will fulfill the undergraduate core Civilizations requirement.

Students in the program will explore themes of colonialism and colonization as they relate to Hong Kong and Asia more broadly, considering the dynamics of conquest, slavery, colonialism and their reciprocal relationships with concepts such as resistance, freedom and independence. In addition to classroom instruction, the program will offer a number of excursions to sites of historical and cultural interest, and will include hands-on projects encouraging interaction with local people and institutions. The program will be based at the new University of Chicago Center in Hong Kong.

The first course, taught by Jim Hevia, professor in History, will first explore relations between Europe and Asia from the 13th through 20th centuries, and will then focus on Hong Kong as a case study of European colonization in Asia. Students will grapple with the apparent contradictions of colonial Hong Kong—a vibrant, capitalist market economy founded through violence and non-democratic political and social structures. In addition to studying a variety of historical government documents, legislation, treaties and propaganda, students will engage with the city through group projects and visits to nearby islands.

The second course, taught by Johanna Ransmeier, professor in History, will compare the ways in which imperial projects interfered in the private lives of subjects and citizens across Asia through an examination of different national language policies, labor practices, family life, domestic servitude, food and medicine. The course will encourage engagement with Hong Kong as a living reflection of the city’s rich history, and also will include a long excursion to Macau to compliment readings on the “coolie trade” and give students a sense of the Portuguese presence in Asia.

Ransmeier, a scholar of human trafficking in North China, said, “Hong Kong is an exceptional place with a complex history. Students in UChicago’s immersive Hong Kong program will have the opportunity to puzzle through the contradictions of colonial expansion, and will explore the conflicted colonial legacies that infuse Hong Kong’s institutions and culture to this day.”

The third course in the sequence, taught by Dan Slater, professor in Political Science, will provide an overview of Asia’s diverse decolonization struggles. The course will stress the forging of new nation-states amid the evolution of multiple perspectives on postcolonial sovereignty—e.g. territorial, civilizational, developmental and democratic—throughout northeast, southeast and south Asia.

A final course on Mandarin Chinese will span the entire program, and will be designed to help students connect with Chinese culture and language.

“I’m excited to engage in learning both inside and outside the classroom,” said study abroad participant and third-year Emma Almon, a public policy major. She is planning to spend the summer interning at the Pozen Center for Human Rights and said the program will help her “contextualize the internship and navigate the structures and institutions particular to Hong Kong.”

Commenting on the importance of study abroad, Hevia added, “It is one thing to sit in a classroom in Chicago and study colonialism; it is quite another matter to do so in Hong Kong, where the built environment was almost entirely constructed under British colonial rule and students’ everyday interactions reflect the historical experience of colonialism.”

The Hong Kong Study Abroad program will become the latest addition to UChicago’s global programs, hosted in more than 40 countries and on every continent. In addition to the Center in Hong Kong, which will house a Chicago Booth Executive MBA program as well as various undergraduate programs, the University’s global centers in Delhi, Paris and Beijing bring together researchers and students to collaborate across the academic spectrum. Chicago Booth also has a campus in London, where UChicago faculty teach in degree-granting programs, as well as the Chicago Booth Center in Singapore.