Going Begging: Casino Culture and its Contrasts as Revealed in the New Macao Poetry


  • Christopher (Kit) Kelen English Department, University of Macau, China




Macao, poetry, place, space


Among the key themes of contemporary Macao poetry, chance and luck loom large, along with their figuration in Macao life through sites such as casinos and temples, through personae such as those of the gambler, the beggar, the prostitute. Macao as dot-on-the-map is likewise conceived as a site for all kinds of portal semiotics, as paradigm for cultural crossing and cultural shift. Macao may be regarded as a work enduring (in Brechtian terms) because it is unfinished. While this is a formula that could be notionally applied to any city, this view seems particularly apt given both the extraordinary pace of change in post-handover Macao (i.e. since 1999), and the present bubble-bursting effect of the 2008 “financial tsunami”.

Relating Augé’s conception of “non-places” to Eco’s notion of open (as opposed to closed) text, this paper observes that consciousness of place in contemporary Macao poetry appears to be dominated by two kinds of space, glossed here as “Macao space” and “anywhere space”. Macao space is uniquely of an historical moment and place, something culturally positioned; in anywhere space (e.g. inside of a casino or an airport) subjects are hailed by consumption-oriented reifications of putative universal value. The contemporary Macao poetry typically values Macao space and sees it as under threat from the “non-negotiable” space of culture that could be anywhere.

Interested in the paradoxes, ironies and hypocrisies inherent in the present-day culture, politics and international position of Macao, the new Macao poetry reveals a place-based poetics deeply concerned with Macao identity, its evolution and potentials.


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How to Cite

Kelen, C. (2009) “Going Begging: Casino Culture and its Contrasts as Revealed in the New Macao Poetry”, Culture Unbound, 1(2), pp. 273–303. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.09118273.



Theme: City of Signs/Signs of the City