Derek Sheridan is a lecturer in anthropology at Brandeis University.
His research addresses transnationalism and migration, ethics, semiotics, political and economic anthropology, and South-South relations, particularly between (global) China and East Africa. In his project, The Ambivalence of Ascendance: Chinese Migrant Entrepreneurs and the Interpersonal Ethics of Global Inequality in Tanzania, based on seventeen months of ethnographic fieldwork studying the everyday lives of migrant Chinese entrepreneurs in Tanzania, he examines how Chinese expatriates and ordinary Tanzanians negotiate the emerging interdependencies and inequalities of South-South connections through the interpersonal ethics of social interactions. He focuses on ordinary evaluations and debates which emerge in sites of tension where the mutuality and inequality of actors comes into focus. These include market competition and trading hierarchies between entrepreneurs, mistrust and interdependence between co-workers, the contested terms of material and emotional reciprocity between friends and strangers, and the art/ethics of petty corruption between expatriates and street-level bureaucrats. These sites of tensions are generative of debates among Chinese and Tanzanians alike about the comparative privileges, vulnerabilities, and moral agency that Chinese expatriates have vis-à-vis their Tanzanian interlocutors. Drawing on narrative histories, the semiotics of social interaction, and the production of ethical and racial knowledge in everyday discourse, he recasts specters and claims about “empire/non-empire” in Africa-China relations through the lens of how ordinary actors negotiate the interpersonal ethics of global inequality.