Conceptualising integrative exchanges: Marginalisation, music and identity of African migrants in Hong Kong

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Hong Kong, an immigrant society in Asia, has long attracted migrants from different countries. However, Africans have lived as invisible minorities in Hong Kong. They fall into the ‘others’ category of the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong government. Invisibility is one form of marginalisation. Africans are often the subjects of suspicion, which generates misunderstandings between Hong Kong Chinese and Africans in their everyday life interactions. This paper examines the ways in which Africans negotiate spaces of inclusion and exclusion in Hong Kong by focusing on the role of African music, and more specifically playing African drum, as a means of socio-cultural integration. It delves into the issues of integration, identity construction and cultural maintenance of Africans in this multicultural society. Based on in-depth interviews and participant observation with a group of African migrants in Hong Kong, this paper examines how they negotiate an identity and articulate “Africanness” by performing African drum music at various places in the context of marginalisation and exclusion as it exists in Hong Kong. This research proposes integrative exchanges as an analytical concept which reveals migrant’s agency that creates an appropriate space for meaningful contact with majority population and which offers an appropriate context for new forms of relationship to emerge. It highlights the qualities of African drum music as a bridging activity that facilitates cultural exchange and integration. This paper argues that African migrants’ roles are not only cultural ambassadors, but also active change agents in the field of identity politics.

Source Publication

International Conference: Migration in a turbulent world, on 26-28 November 2016, at Doha, Qatar

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