CHAN Kwok-bun (Hong Kong Baptist University), Cosmopolitan, Translated Man, or Stranger? Experimenting with Sociological Autobiography, English/33pages, September 2005.


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 in urban areas the world over. Inspired by Simmel, Schuetz, Park, and the Chicago school of sociology, and following their footsteps closely, this essay draws upon the sociology of race and ethnic relations on the one hand and biographical experiences on the other to meditate on a range of subjects such as identity, homelessness, prejudice and discrimination, coping with the problems of living and adaptation, ethnic solidarity, and immigrant entrepreneurship, before it offers the concept of 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 invent a language for humankind in a world quickly being torn apart by ethnocentrism, wars, violence and terrorism. The language of sympathy and open-mindedness must be found rapidly or the pain of the speechless will be prolonged.