Africans in China Conferences

Mini symposium CA/AC 2021: African Mobilities in China

The African presence in China has a long history and connects to several, often misunderstood, patterns of African transnational mobility. Significant migration from Africa to China was ongoing before the pandemic and is expected to resume as it abates. To better understand the diversity of contemporary African presence in China, and the possibilities for the future, the Organising Committee of the 6th Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference invites you to join the ‘African Mobilities in China Online Mini-Symposium’ this Dec 18, 2020.

Join Lesley Nicole Braun, from the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Basel, Kudus Adebayo, from the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan, and Xin Jin, from the Department of Human Geography at Utrecht University, who will participate as discussants, for a conversation on the implications of African presence in China past, present and future.

Mini-symposium: African Mobilities in China

Date: Fri Dec 182020

Time: 9:30am (GMT-5: New York); 3:30pm (GMT+1: Lagos); 10:30pm (GMT+8: Hong Kong)

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 931 8607 2578
Passcode: 03322682

Register here:


Lesley Nicole BRAUN

Title: Contagious Rhythms & Viral Media:  Circulating Afro dancers in China

Abstract: African popular dance is increasingly visible in China as it circulates in the form of viral videos. Images of Chinese women masterfully dancing Congolese ndombolo, or of dance troupes performing synchronized choreographies, reveal new spaces of cultural engagement. While these images circulate in virtual spaces, “Afro-dance” classes held in China move encounters into a physical space. As university students from a wide range of African countries embed themselves in communities across China, they bring with them not only their commitment to academic achievement, but also to cultural encounter. A genre of dance dubbed “Afro-dance” by African practitioners, is increasingly popular at fitness and dance studios, and has become a way for inclined dancers can earn a living in China while they study. Another venue showcasing African dance is at Shenzhen’s theme park Window of the World. Here, the zone of contact uncomfortably resembles that of a turn of the century world’s fair, especially as African performers are introduced to the audience by a Chinese host in blackface. This paper explores three spaces where dance is visible in China: in the digital realm, dance studios, and a theme park stage. Grounded in an ethnographic approach, it draws from interviews with dancers circulating their videos online through Chinese channels, with Afro-dance instructors based in China, and performers working at Window of the World. It will consider how African dance instructors and performers view themselves as unofficial cultural ambassadors, as they foster new zones of cultural contact. Drawing from Michael Herzfeld’s notion of “cultural intimacy” (1996) in which officially shared national identities are also a source of ambivalence, this paper also considers the performers who feel complicit in contributing to an essentialized vision of a monolithic Africa.

Bio: Lesley Nicole Braun is a senior lecturer at the University of Basel at the Institute of Social Anthropology. Her research investigates the gendered dimensions of transnational mobility, and how gender and sexuality impact, as well as shape women’s activities in the public sphere. Her book publication Congo’s Dancers: Women and Work in Kinshasa(forthcoming 2021 with the University of Wisconsin Press)focuses on performance in Kinshasa, DRC, and the ways that popular dance, in its embodied and symbolic forms, participates in the construction of an urban experience.

Affiliation: Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland.

Kudus Oluwatoyin ADEBAYO

Title: ‘They did not allow me to enter the place I was heading to’: Being ‘stuck-in-place’ and transit emplacement in Nigerian migration to China
Abstract: How do Nigerian migrants become and experience being ‘stuck-in-place’ in China on their way to other East Asian countries and territories? This contribution interrogates the concepts of stuckedness, waiting and social navigation to examine what it means to be ‘stuck-in-place’ in the Chinese city of Guangzhou using the stories of Nigerian migrants. The study aims to understand how Nigerian migrants confront and manage uncertainties associated with being ‘stuck-in-place,’ particularly in respect of ‘making do’ with what is available under undesirable circumstances. Four interview stories (a female and three males) were purposively selected and analysed from a large qualitative dataset on the settlement experiences of Nigerians in China. Findings showed that participants were spatially stuck in Guangzhou on their way to other East Asia countries and territories, including South Korea and Hong Kong, but stuckedness also manifested from identity appropriation, which was produced from the use of other country’s passports. Journey truncation, which is itself a consequence of abandonment, documentation problems, and lack of or insufficient funds to support stay at intended destination, accounted for the majority of stuckedness experiences. Despite this condition, however, their stories revealed an openness to emplacement in Guangzhou, which they did by engaging in trades/business, finding employment and devising means to elongate their stay through informal means. Interestingly, such emplacement is best understood as ‘transit emplacement’ because of the uncertainties, risks and precarity that characterise their lives in the Chinese city. The study highlights how ‘stuck-in-place’ stories help to illuminate the experiences of Nigerians in Guangzhou and thus proving crucial in making the growing presence of Africans in China more comprehensible.

Bio: Kudus Oluwatoyin is a Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria and currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow of the ACLS African Humanities Program (AHP). His on-going AHP research is exploring the transnational livelihood, masculinity and family dynamics of Nigerian deportees from China.

Affiliation: Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria


Title: Social-networking and trust-building: trajectories and strategies of African entrepreneurs moving in the value chain

Abstract: Based on 40 African entrepreneurs with various activities at Guangzhou, China, this article has explored in a detailed way on how the African entrepreneurs adopt social networking and trust-building process to move towards positions with more value, through combining mixed embeddedness and value network approach. Results show that the trajectory of African entrepreneurship is moving towards the Chinese production side, and in line with travellers, middlemen, shopkeepers, designers and company owners. The key to success is to figure out these new values and break out strategies through Chinese networks with bridging capital. Thus they can overcome barriers to stay in Guangzhou permanently and get access to shops, factories and material markets etc. Moreover, trust-building is significant in this networking process, they use strategies such as giving credit, renting shops, and having own designed and branded products to achieve trust to customers and partners. It also indicates that ethnic enclave theory is insufficient for explaining African group at Guangzhou: this group is working as ‘transient’ nature – they could not fully integrate into Chinese society but stay more transnationally, although their strategies of moving towards production side is local-embedded, they could not control and integrate the whole chain under the control of Chinese manufacturing. Besides, through analysing the process of networking and building trust along the trajectories of African entrepreneurship, it contributes to studies on ethnic entrepreneurship through a process perspective by combining mixed embeddedness and network value chain approach.

Bio: Xin Jin is a human geographer in migration and urban/regional studies. Her Ph.D. research focuses on the economic strategies of African traders and entrepreneurs in  China, and their spatial organizations within and beyond Guangzhou.

Affiliation: PhD candidate at the Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Moderator: Roberto Castillo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

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