That, though, is what Stephen Chan Ching-kiu, academic dean for the faculty of arts and professor of cultural studies at Lingnan University, did in the late 1990s and, in the process, he found his true calling. It enabled him - with the help of others, of course - to create programmes, instigate research, and build a fuller understanding of the diverse cultural influences that continue to shape
Hong Kong society.
Crucially, that has inspired serious study of previously neglected areas such as local cinema, grassroots politics, preservation of heritage, and social identification. And it is having an impact on the broader community by exploring practical issues and perceptions faced by teachers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the like in a fast-changing environment where tradition and collective memory still count for a lot.
After returning to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s with a PhD in comparative literature from the University of California at San Diego, Chan spent two years at the then Lingnan College teaching translation and English. Being young and ambitious, it seemed a logical step to move on to the English department at the Chinese University, but becoming more interested in the changing attitudes and ideas of the pre-handover period, Chan felt the need to teach a subject that reflected and moved with the times. He therefore jumped at the chance to join Lingnan's School of General Education in 1998 with a mission to bring cultural studies into the curriculum as a distinct degree discipline, not just an afterthought tacked on to other subjects.
"I saw cultural studies as a very useful contemporary platform for scholars to engage in important issues away from the more traditional confines of English, sociology or communications, which were driven by their respective but, to me, narrow disciplinary concerns," Chan says. "I was increasingly interested in the real Hong Kong - its structure, culture, and the way people see their past, present and future."