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COLT-499, Culture and Travel in Hong Kong and Macau

Summer 2015 in Hong Kong and Macau
Professors: Roberto Ignacio Diaz and Dominic Cheung

Dates: June, 2015 (specific dates forthcoming)

Program Costs:

Tuition: $6408

Airfare: $1500-1700 (Subject to change)

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additional expenses: $1500*

Total: $9402-9602

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for accommodations, other fees, and personal expenses (which can vary greatly from student to student).

Funding is available through SURF, student undergraduate research fund and Continuing Student Scholarships


This 4-unit course is a student-driven learning experience under the supervision of USC faculty members who specialize in several languages and literary traditions.  Participants in the course will travel and live in Hong Kong and Macau for a period of two weeks in each city. Students will be encouraged to use the tools of literary and cultural studies to question the theoretical paradigms that have formulated Eastern and Western cultures as paradoxes rather than continua.  Why do East and West exist as binaries?  How do these two matrices interact in Chinese cities that were until recently British or Portuguese possessions?  What critical practices inform a pluralistic cultural discourse that communicates to other travelers the interaction of diverse cultural patterns in the digital age?

Students will explore these questions in three interrelated phases.

  • First, students will engage in the reading and discussion of texts related to the cultural history of the Pearl River Estuary, both a central hub in China’s current economic growth and a major site in the history of early global capitalism.  These texts belong to various genres and disciplines and focus on several centuries of cultural history.  They include European chronicles and literary works of travel exploration (Marco Polo, Luís Vaz de Camões) as well as scholarly works on Christianity in China (Matteo Ricci) and on Western literary and artistic expatriates in Macau and Hong Kong who interacted with local painters (George Chinnery, Marciano Baptista, Auguste Borget, Lamqua, Tingqua); fiction and films set in Hong Kong (Eileen Chang, Paul Theroux, Wong Kar-Wai); and works on transcultural representations (Roland Barthes, Edward Said, Italo Calvino) and the practices of tourism (MacCannell).
  • Second, students will travel to Hong Kong and Macau, spending two weeks in each city and visiting Guangzhou on a two-day trip as well.  This physical contact and visual contemplation of the objects of their study will allow students to reflect on a personal level on their perceptions of East and West.  The sites we will visit are diverse, including the three major harbors and quaysides in Hong Kong (Victoria Bay), Macau (Praya Grande), Canton (Whampoa); Portuguese baroque churches, the Ma-kok Temple, and Las Vegas-style postmodern casinos in Macau; the celebrated settings of novels and films in Hong Kong (Repulse Bay, Chungking Mansions); and such global developments as the Wal-Mart Supercenter and the new opera house designed by Zaha Hadid in Guangzhou.  We will interrogate the paradigms of East and West and the interrelated concept of authenticity, autochthony, imitation and hybridity as they appear to emerge in these sites, exploring as well new possibilities for cultural expression.  Visits will be paired with meetings with curators and other experts, such as teaching faculty from the University of Hong Kong and Shenzhen University, and students will reflect on their daily experiences through travel logs and discussions.  They will then return independently to some of these sites as researchers and interview local business owners, street vendors and merchants, tour guides and other travelers and tourists.

  • Third, students will collaborate in writing a culturally and theoretically informed guidebook to some of the major sites in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou.  Going beyond the practical and at times superficial formulations of such guidebooks as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide, students will document their own reflections on the sites they choose keeping in mind the “ethics of sightseeing” as developed by MacCannell and others.  Students will publish entries on the course website which will be supported by USC’s Scalar digital-born book platform.

Sample 2013 application here (2015 application forthcoming)

Return all forms to Ana Lee Department of Comparative Literature (THH 161)

For questions, please contact Katherine Guevarra at