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Migrant Youth Envisioning Their Futures in Hong Kong
This paper explores the dynamics between migration and aspirations through the lens of teenage migrant students in Hong Kong as they adapt to education and life in a new home. The focus is on their educational trajectories, senses of belonging and identity negotiation. Data are drawn from ethnographic research of the first year upon arrival of two incoming teenage groups to Hong Kong – from mainland China and from South Asia (predominantly India, Pakistan, and Nepal). These two distinct cultural groups, with the Chinese group sharing cultural similarities with Hong Kong locals and the South Asian group being fundamentally different, provide insightful comparisons. This study finds that the future-making of Mainland Chinese students is based on an aspirational anticipation that they will achieve a middle-class lifestyle through a good education. This is a promise that points to the future – a hopeful future which they imagine Hong Kong education will promise. In contrast, the South Asians envision their future as being part of an imagined international Hong Kong consisting of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. This is an imagining that points to an idealized global metropolis. Building on Appadurai’s idea that aspiration is a cultural capacity – a navigational capacity that enables an individual to envision and explore the future, this paper discusses the factors that shape the aspirations of these migrant youth, and the way their aspirations in turn shape their present practices.