Dreamworld of Casino Capitalism: Macao’s Society, Literature, and Culture

by Janet Ng


One of the largest casino-entertainment venues in Macao is called City of Dreams. True to its name, it is a city unto itself, devoted entirely to pleasure, consumption and luxury living. The massive campus includes luxury residences and high-end retail stores, restaurants, spas, extravagant performance venues and, of course, gaming facilities. The City of Dreams is an enclosed city with its own interior “boulevards” and its own theater district, called “Soho.” It even has its own blue-chip architecture, the Morpheus, a luxury hotel designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE, using the world’s most advanced and innovative building technology.

This is a study of the nature of casino cities through Macao’s stories. The author examines how the development of the city into a world gambling and entertainment capital affects the daily lives of the city’s residents. The literary or filmic narratives of Macao capture how it feels to be citizens of these cities, the emotional responses, and thoughts of those who living within the conditions of these dreamworlds. But importantly, they also reveal the kinds of imagination and creativity of those living there and their strategies of taking hold of the narrative of the city for themselves, against the dominant state discourse.

The writings discussed in this volume are all published after the liberalization of the gambling industry in Macao in 2002, when the city embarked on an accelerated and dramatic transformation. The contemporary literary scene in Macao is lively and diverse, impressive given how small the population the population is (a little over 600,000) vis-à-vis an all-encompassing casino industry and the tens of millions of tourists it brings to the city every year. The author discusses works from fiction writers who live and work primarily in Macao, as well as refer to the works of essayists and social commentators who regularly publish in the local print media. Also included are writers who might not have a resident card but have strong personal or historic ties to the city, either through a career opportunity that brought them there, family history, or having grown up there. The author uses their works to study the effect of contemporary Macao on the global imagination, especially under the current regime of global circulation of capital and people.

Through these works, the author presents another way of understanding Macao, beyond the official measures of GDPs and economics. The author captures the often-inarticulate sentiments and aspirations of the common people, in order to challenge and change the direction, discursive as well as political, of the society. In so doing, the author overlays the official ideology of this kind of casino city that Macao represents with a complex network of the experiences and stories of those who live in it, under its specific economic and social compulsions. In each chapter of this volume, the author examines particular works that illustrate a different experiential and emotional phenomenon of life in this city.


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