Monthly Archives: December 2013

[TALK] Feeling at Home in the ‘Chocolate City’: an exploration of African presence in Guangzhou, China (@ Seoul, Korea)

A small, introductory and general talk I gave in Korea – in an early stage of my research – about Africans in Guangzhou


[ABSTRACT] ‘Homing’ Guangzhou: emplacement, belonging and (alternative) citizenship amongst Africans in China

By Roberto Castillo, Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

The transformations associated with the ‘rise of Asia’ have had implications in a myriad of places, practices and imaginations. Over the last fifteen years, countless Africans have been moving between China and Africa for mainly trading purposes. By following the story of Tony I., a member of the Nigerian community in Guangzhou, this article explores strategies employed by individuals to negotiate their everyday lives under conditions of uncertainty. I argue that the transiency and precarity that characterize African presence in Guangzhou have led to the emergence of ‘networks of support’ (i.e. sports clubs, national community offices, and religious organisations), which are crucial arenas where senses of solidarity, belonging and (alternative) citizenship are structured. By introducing the notions of ‘emplacement within transiency’ and ‘precarious homing’, this article explores how, in their attempts to (re)produce a sense of ‘home’ while in Guangzhou, individuals on the move articulate personal aspirations, transnational trajectories, and locally emerging forms of belonging, with political and economic imperatives. At a time when Asian societies are articulating the multiple transnational flows structuring the alleged rise of the region, examining how Africans might (or might fail to) feel at ‘home’ in Guangzhou matters not only because their incorporation into Chinese population challenges contemporary discourses of Asian identity, race, ethnicity, nationalism, and citizenship, but also because it opens up possibilities for alternative (non-Eurocentric) imaginations of self, place, ‘home’ and identity. Finally, this article seeks to broaden the discussion on questions such as: How will the so-called ‘Asian modernity’ be reconfigured by its new non-Asian ‘citizens’? Is there the space to open imaginations and legislations including Africans (and Sino-Africans) in Asian debates about ‘cultural citizenship’ and ‘global modernities’? How are ‘home’, ‘belonging’ and ‘citizenship’ understood and negotiated in African transnational diasporic communities in China? And, how does one ‘feel-at-home’ in 21st century China when s/he is not Chinese? In short, this article aims to contribute to the examination of the e(a)ffects of transnational movement on the formation of individual and collective identities.

[RESEARCH] Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network: 2014 conference

The next Chinese in Africa/Africans in China conference will be held in Guangzhou Dec 12-14 2014. It is hosted by the CA/AC network in collaboration with Jinan University.

The conference focuses on people-related aspect of China-Africa engagements. We invite scholars in this field to propose themes for the conference panels that they would like to chair. The panels can be theoretically, empirically, or methodologically defined. The prospective panel chairs are not expected to provide a list of participants, but help us circulate a call for abstracts to prospective presenters later.


For the full call for panels, see
Deadline for panels proposals: January 20, 2014
A call for abstracts will be issued in February 2014.

Contact: Heidi Østbø Haugen
Postdoctoral researcher
Department of Sociology and Human Geography
University of Oslo

[Documentary] Interview with Pieter van der Houwen, Director of ‘The Africa-China Connection’

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Hangwei Li with the Africa Daily recently interviewed Pieter van der Houwen, Director of Documentary Film “The Africa-China Connection.” This documentary looks at the impact of African migration into China and the greater economic impact Africans will continue to have. As Europe and America build fortress societies, the Chinese recognise that ease of movement will become a key part of sustained economic development. Philosopher and political scientist Achille Mbembe, and Ian Goldin, former Vice-President of the World Bank & advisor to Nelson Mandela, analyse the significance of this development.


[ART] Pictures open doors between cultures: Congolese and Nigerian artists in China

By Joseph Catanzaro and Chen Yingqun ( China Daily Africa)

African artists create greater understanding by portraying life in China, an exhibition in Beijing reveals

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In a Kansas schoolyard in 1979, alone in a crowd of children at play, Akonga Jonas Theodore made a discovery that would determine the course of his adult life.

Newly arrived in the United States, the 7-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo was isolated from the other children by barriers of language and culture.

In that lonely place, Akonga found his voice and his calling.

He spoke to his playmates not in the tongue of his African homeland, but in the scratchy whisper of pencil on paper, in the language of lines and shading.

“I took a pencil, and I drew what I wanted to say,” Akonga remembers. “This is how I started using art to communicate with people.”

It is a skill the now Beijing-based 41-year-old still uses.

“I did the same thing when I moved to China in 2003,” he says.

Paints and brushes have become Akonga’s communication tools along with English and Mandarin. Using art to transcend language and culture has become his profession, as well as his passion.

On Nov 22, his work appears as part of a groundbreaking exhibition in Beijing that documents through paintings, drawings and photographs the experiences of Africans living in China.

The driving force behind the exhibition, Beijing-based photographer and artist Njoku “Saint Jerry” Ajike, says he wants to reveal the largely untold journey that African immigrants have undertaken in China over the past decade.

When the 37-year-old Nigerian artist arrived in Beijing five years ago, he says he felt constrained by an erroneous stereotype that Africans were just out to make a buck any which way they could.

Few people, he says, realized what the African community was giving back to Beijing and the other Chinese cities where they had made lives and homes.

“The story of Africa in China is all hustle and bustle,” he says. “This exhibition is a different view of Africans in China. It is archival, what Africans were able to discover here, what they built.”

Believed to be the first African photographer to have his work featured in China’s renowned Pingyao Photo Festival, in 2009 Njoku began publishing LensAfrik, a magazine focused on telling the African story in the world’s second-largest economy.

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