CHAN Kwok-bun (Hong Kong Baptist University), The Stranger's Plight, and Gift , English/17 Pages, September 2004.


Georg Simmel and Alfred Schuetz's stranger and Robert Park's marginal man have captured the imagination of many social theorists writing about the modern man or woman's encounters with ˇĄthe other' in urban areas the world over. Inspired by Simmel, Schuetz, and Park, and following their footsteps closely, this essay draws upon the sociology of race and ethnic relations on the one hand and autobiographical experiences on the other to meditate on a range of subjects such as identity, homelessness, prejudice and discrimination, coping with the problems of living, ethnic solidarity, and immigrant entrepreneurship, before it offers a theory of inner hybridity as a critique of multiculturalism. Strangers in strange lands certainly have their many moments of inner turmoil, which is their plight, but their double consciousness or mental duality also suggests that they are gifted because they must resolve for themselves the existential conflicts between self and other, us and them, and come out in one piece, or they will disintegrate and perish. Embedded in the idea of sympathy and the method of comparisons, the concept of hybridity is invoked in a desperate attempt to create a language for humankind in a world being torn apart by ethnocentrism and violence. The language of sympathy and open-mindedness must be found quickly or the suffering of the speechless will be prolonged.