Asian Networks of Knowledge Exchange

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How knowledge is transmitted within and across cultures is the broad theme linking the three books under discussion here: 'Cross-Cultural Exchange and the Colonial Imaginary', edited by H. Hazel Hahn, 'Building Colonial Hong Kong: Speculative Development and Segregation in the City' by Cecilia L. Chu, and Peter G. Rowe and Yun Fu’s 'Southeast Asian Modern: From Roots to Contemporary Turns'. In them, we see how networks facilitate knowledge exchange and the effects this can have on society and, in particular, the built environment of East and Southeast Asia. The first two books deal with the colonial era. H. Hazel Hahn and her contributors cover the Dutch East Indies, French Indochina, British Malaya and Ceylon, and the Philippines to undertake nuanced examinations of places and practices; in them, we see the fragmented nature of cultural exchange, as well as its continuous and dynamic evolution. Cecilia L. Chu focuses on Hong Kong to offer fascinating insights into the territory’s history through dual lenses of property and race. Finally, Peter G. Rowe and Yun Fu treat their readers to a magisterial discussion of contemporary architecture (and its roots) in Southeast Asia and beyond (including parts of Austronesia). Their analysis is grounded by examining different influences: Austronesian vernacular; India, China, and Islam; Western colonization; and the postcolonial era of independence. This is an original and rewarding approach because it allows the tracing of currents of knowledge exchange and transfer across the region’s built environment through its long history.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Urban History
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • knowledge exchange
  • architecture
  • colonialism/postcolonialism
  • Southeast Asia
  • Hong Kong


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