African aspirations in the Chinese ‘Mega-City’: recent transformations in Guangzhou’s urban ethnoscapes

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Over the last fifteen years, as a consequence of the sustained economic engagements between African countries and the PRC, along with China’s post-WTO gradual relaxation of policies on foreign mobility (entry and housing), countless Africans have arrived in Guangzhou in the search for material and immaterial wellbeing. While these individuals have been generally conceptualised as traders moving things between the two regions, scant attention has been given to the dreams and aspirations they bring along and, more importantly, to the transnational strategies and tools they utilise in order to fulfil them. By following the story of Sky, a well-known Nigerian Igbo singer, event organiser, entrepreneur, businessman and father, in this paper I focus on how Africans that have been for longer periods of time in the city articulate their aspirations (i.e. success and family making) with those of the multiple, diverse, and highly mobile foreign and ‘local’ populations with which they interact. Additionally, I highlight how these individuals negotiate their everyday lives against complex regimes that govern their (aspirational) mobilities. In this paper, I claim that – at a time in which Asian societies attempt to articulate the multiple transnational flows structuring the alleged rise of the region – looking at how Africans pursue their aspirations in China (and how they intersect with ‘local’ populations and systems in doing so) achieves two goals: firstly, it challenges contemporary discourses on Asian identity (i.e. race, ethnicity and nationalism) and, secondly, it provides a more comprehensive perspective on how are Asian urban ‘ethnoscapes’ being remade/transformed and what are the possibilities that emerge from these processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
EventUrban Aspirations Asia – A Graduate Urban Studies Workshop - Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 14 Aug 201415 Aug 2014


WorkshopUrban Aspirations Asia – A Graduate Urban Studies Workshop
OtherFaculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the National University of Singapore
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