Research

Current Fellows

Nathanel Amar holds degrees from Sorbonne University, Paris 1 (BA, MA) in philosophy and Sciences Po, Paris (BA, MA, PhD) in political science. His PhD, defended in December 2015, focused on the making of a counter-cultural sphere in contemporary China, and made extensive use of ethnographic fieldwork among Chinese punk and independent filmmaker communities. His primary research areas include pop culture and cultural hegemony, and the relationship between Chinese counter-culture and mainstream culture and identity politics. 
Amar taught Chinese sociology, cultural studies and international relations at Sciences Po Paris from 2015 to 2017, and worked as a research assistant in the Sino-French Center for social science at Tsinghua University (Beijing) from 2013 to 2015.

As a member of HKU’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Amar plans to work on popular music at China’s peripheries (mainly Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia). In the short to medium term, this postdoctoral research aims at understanding how ethnic minorities in China reinvent their musical traditions and use it as a tool to produce and negotiate their identities. Combined with his doctoral research on Chinese punks, the project will lead to a better understanding of Chinese popular culture and strategies of resistance against the State’s cultural hegemony.


John Gabriel is a musicologist who seeks to understand the role of music and sound in the cultural history of Central Europe and the United States from the fin-de-siècle to the early Cold War. His interests include the productive collisions of art and popular idioms, of old traditions and new technologies, and of competing socio-political ideologies. 
As a fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, Gabriel’s primary research project is a book on the music theater of the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) in Weimar Republic Germany (1919-33). The composers of the Neue Sachlichkeit sought to create a new kind of avant-garde music that was accessible, relevant, and appealing to mass audiences without sacrificing artistic quality. A central tenant of their aesthetics was to create music that was of the “now.” How exactly music theater could be of the “now,” however, was up for debate. Gabriel analyses music, stagings, and discourse to show how the aesthetics of the “now” played out, from superficial representations of the present-day on stage, to structural reflections of the jarring experience of modern life in musical form and dramaturgy. His investigation spans multiple genres of music theater, including dance and marionette theater, opera, semi-staged oratorios and cantatas, and the radio music play.

Before coming to the University of Hong Kong, Gabriel was a visiting faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He completed his Ph.D. in Historical Musicology with a secondary field in Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University in 2016.

Harriet Hulme holds a BA Hons in English and French from the University of Leeds (2007) and both an MA (2010) and a PhD (2016) in Comparative Literature from University College London. During her doctorate, she spent three months as a fully-funded Visiting Assistant in Research at Yale University. Her PhD research focused upon the ethical theories of translation offered by Benjamin, Deleuze, Derrida and Ricœur as part of an interrogation of ethical as well as political thought within the work of three bilingual European authors; the monograph arising from her thesis, entitled Ethics and Aesthetics of Translation: Exploring the Work of Atxaga, Kundera and Semprún, is due to be published by UCL Press in 2018. Her work has also appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Comparative Critical Studies and in two edited volumes.

Harriet’s research project at HKU is entitled On the Threshold: Locating an Ethics of Hospitality Between Home and Homelessness. Inspired by her academic interest in issues of cultural and linguistic exchange and by her 16,000 km cycle trip across Europe and Asia, this is a strongly interdisciplinary project, focusing upon a range of twentieth and twenty-first century texts from a variety of cultures and languages. Taking a geoliterary approach, which maps questions of physical location and movement onto questions of textual location and movement, her research explores the ways in which the tension between home and homelessness informs our contemporary response towards hospitality. The project is conceived as a three-year venture, during which Harriet expects to produce three articles and prepare a second monograph for publication.

Before joining HKU’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Robert Kramm was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, University of Konstanz. In 2015, he earned his PhD in history at ETH Zurich with a thesis entitled “Sanitized Sex: Regulating Prostitution, Venereal Disease and Intimacy in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952,” published as a monograph with University of California Press (2017).

At HKU Robert Kramm is working on his second book project tentatively called “Radical Utopian Communities: A Global History from the Margins, c. 1890-1950.” The book will examine communes in Jamaica, Japan, South Africa, and Switzerland, ranging from religious sects to secular socio-political communes from the radical left to the far right. Communes are significant hubs for the meeting of people across national and imperial boundaries. The selection of cases deliberately encompasses spatially and ideologically separated people and movements in different cultural, political and social contexts. The project’s aim is to stress the interplay of diversity, difference, and similarity in the modern world. Radical utopian communities offer an ideal opportunity to analyze the range and limits of actors of globalization and the circulation of knowledge. And they afford a new vantage point from which to narrate a decentered, non-Eurocentric global history of the early twentieth century from the margins of the geographical, political and social spectrum.

(Emma) Yu Zhang’s research interests include modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture, the Chinese diaspora, socialism and postsocialism as well as the intersection of technology and modern culture. As a fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, she is working on a project focusing on the cultural practices and representations of “going to the countryside” in China (1915-1965). This spatial move refers to the ways in which intellectuals, reformers, revolutionaries, and idealistic youth crossed an urban-rural divide, geographically and culturally. With the increasing gap between the city and the countryside, “going to the countryside” brought new experiences of space and time, initiated new ways of human communication and interaction, generated new forms of cultural production, and ultimately created a new cultural, social, and political landscape. While at HKU, Zhang is also developing a new project examining the flows of overseas literature, intellectual writings, films, and TV dramas from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore into mainland China (late 1970s–early 1990s). 

Yu Zhang received her Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Stanford University. Her essays have appeared in such journals as Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Twentieth-Century China, and Journal of Chinese Cinemas. Her research has been supported by a junior scholar grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and other fellowships.

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