Africans in China Conferences Guangzhou Research

[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.

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