Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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‘China-in-Africa’ in Proximity: Chinese Migrants and the Production of Trust, Value and Knowledge in Dar es Salaam

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

12 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Lunch will be provided.

Despite a growing recognition that the study of China-Africa relationships entails an irreducible multiplicity of issues rather than a singularly coherent “China-Africa” field of study, the idea of China-Africa has been so compelling at this historical moment as to be fostering not only a cottage industry of journalism and policy analyses, but also a burgeoning intellectual enterprise with its own research networks, conferences and edited publications. The actual growth of African-Chinese engagements aside, a major impetus for this particular knowledge production (predominantly centered in the West, but also in China and to a more limited extent in Africa) are implicit assumptions about the expectedness of Western hegemony, and often explicit fantasies about the potential futures of China and Africa in realigning the global hierarchy of value and power. Alongside the production of knowledge by scholars, policymakers and journalists, however; there are also everyday forms of knowledge being produced by the diverse sets of people directly building Chinese-African relationships. Do they share these same assumptions and concerns? This presentation is based on a dissertation proposal for a project that will look at Chinese migrant entrepreneurs and their Tanzanian partners, customers workers and friends in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Derek Sheridan's research will be an ethnography of everyday interactions among differently situated Chinese and Tanzanians. He has questions about negotiations of interpersonal trust, ethics and the value and quality of the wealth and commodities produced and exchanged in these relationships. How do these interactions and the everyday forms of knowledge they produce engage, reproduce or challenge dominant narratives about "China-Africa"?

Derek Sheridan is PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. He earned a BA in Anthropology/International Studies and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. His research broadly concerns the relationship between geopolitics and the individual and interpersonal experiences of people involved in transnational relationships. His MA research concerned the formation of political subjectivities among social/political activists in Taiwan. His dissertation focuses on the experiences of Chinese migrant entrepreneurs and Tanzanians in Dar es Salaam. He served as the head program director for the North American Taiwan Studies Association in 2013, and for three years as organizer of the Brown University Social Science Colloquium on China.

Africa Initiative

The Africa Workshop will serve as an interdisciplinary space where faculty and graduate students can come and share, present and discuss research on key issues on Africa.