Past Workshops
Post-colonial Consciousness

Post-colonial Consciousness:
Representations of China in Africa

Contact: Allen Xiao ( If you would like to enroll in our email list, please fill this form. For general inquiry about this workshop, please contact

Coordinators: Allen Xiao (Geography), Edward Friedman (Political Science), Kevin Wamalwa (African Languages and Literature), Yingxin Gao (English), Christa Berce (History)

Post-colonial Consciousness: Representations of China in Africa workshops, meetings, and events can be found in the Borghesi-Mellon Workshops Calendar.

The “China in Africa” Workshop seeks to arouse public concerns on current African development and demystify the rise of Chinese global power. By inviting a wide range of speakers across the globe, we succeeded to shed light on how the discourses of “China in Africa” are differently represented by academics, media, and politicians and in deconstructing what lies behind these representations as they relate to post-colonial consciousness and neo-colonial agendas. Moreover, extensive interactions between the guest speakers and UW faculties and students enhance UW’s engagements with the frontier of emerging China-Africa studies. 

Lecture Series

The Politics of Chineseness in South Africa: From the Apartheid Years to 2014
12:00pm, Wednesday, October 7, 2015. @ 206 Ingraham Hall
Yoon Jung Park
Adjunct Associate Professor, African Studies
Georgetown University

[Abstract] South Africa is one of the few African countries with a critical mass of ethnic Chinese people – one large enough to impact local and national politics. Over the years, the Chinese have been targeted because of their Chineseness; periodically, they have also used their Chineseness – their ethnic difference from other South Africans as well as their links to China (as in “Rising China”) and the Chinese factory (or Chinese manufacturing power) – to further their own interests in the country. Park explains some of the differences between the three main communities of Chinese in South Africa – the third- and fourth-generation Chinese South Africans, the Taiwanese South Africans, and the newer waves of mainland Chinese. She also explores the shifting connections and identifications with China and Chineseness over time.

Continents in Motion: How Today's China-Africa Encounter Came About and What it Means for the World
7:00pm Thursday, October 22, 2015 @ AT&T Lounge, Pyle Center
Howard French 
Associate Professor of Journalism
Columbia University

In this talk, French will talk about the processes that began drawing large numbers of new Chinese migrants to Africa in the early to mid 1990's, and then speak to the question of the global geopolitical and economic setting that pushed events in this direction, albeit with some surprising outcomes. These include the end of Maoism, the launching of China's reform and opening period, the end of the Cold War, and what has come to be known by some as the War on Terror.

Braving Borders: Congolese Trader Women’s Sojourns to China
4:00 PM, Wednesday, Nov 11, 2015 @ 5230 Social Science Building
Lesley Nicole Braun
Postdoctoral Fellow, Comparative Human Development
University of Chicago

In Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, a new middle class is emerging, and women are at the forefront of this social transformation. Among these women are a group referred to as femmes commerçantes (trader women) who travel to Southern China on buying expeditions to purchase goods such as mobile phones and other electronics to re-sell in Congo. Trader women with international travel experience, and knowledge about complex visa bureaucratic processes associated with import activity, position themselves as advisors and leaders for new hopeful traders—some of whom are illiterate and only speak Lingala. Social networks are crucial for successful buying trips, and it is imperative that trader women forge relationships with people in both China and Congo to finance their trips and assist in navigating customs. Social networks forged outside of a woman’s kin group often poses threats to men, which can in turn motivate distrust between the genders.

Transnational femmes commerçantes, are not only an important part of a changing economic landscape, they are also representative of changing gender dynamics in Kinshasa. How do Congolese at home regard this emerging class of women? Do trading activities impact women’s intimate relationships with men? What are the ways in which traders expand their social networks to increase business opportunities? While Congolese men who conduct business abroad acquire prestige—they are seen as worldly or cosmopolitan—this research examines whether, for women this new status comes at a cost: the cost of their personal reputation as “virtuous women.”

Messy Aid: The Geopolitical Implications of Chinese Engagement in Africa’s Energy Sectors
4:00pm Monday, November 23, 2015 @ 444 Science Hall
May Tan-Mullins 
Associate Professor of International Relations
Nottingham University, Ningbo, China

Chinese enhanced role in Africa’s energy sector since 2000s has evoked a parochial imagination of China-Africa relations, with China being labelled as a ‘neo-colonialist’, a ‘rogue creditor’ and an ‘imperialist’. This is because many of the Chinese projects in the African’s energy sector are intertwined with aid, trade and investment, prompting imaginaries of a dragon ‘scrambling for resources’ and threatening good governance practices. However, recent data shown the picture is more varied with a range of winners and losers, dependable on local specifics and the nature of the industries. This paper builds on fieldwork data from Angola, Ghana and Nigeria, and evaluates the differential outcomes of Chinese aid and investment practices in the renewable (hydropower) and non-renewable (oil and gas) energy sectors of these countries. The paper will conclude with a discussion questioning is there a “Chinese way” of cooperation and South-South development model emerging from evolving China-Africa energy relations, and examine the importance of China’s increasing responsibilities as a rising power in global governance.

Reading East-Asian Characters in Francophone African Films
12:00pm Thursday, February 4, 2016 @1418 Van Hise
Marie Helene Koffi-Tessio 
Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Asian characters have been rather scarce in Francophone African films. And yet, echoing the increased visibility, in the media, of Chinese in Africa, contemporary West and Central African filmmakers are making East-Asian characters a recurrent figure. This paper explores these filmic inclusions that mirrors global patterns of migration and asks to what extent they seek to represent, challenge or foresee African changing ethnic landscapes.

Mandehandeha Mahita Raha: New Immigrant Destinations and Madagascar’s Pivot to China
12:00pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016 @ 206 Ingraham Hall
Laura M. Tilghman 
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Plymouth State University

As immigration to Western countries becomes increasingly difficult, many people in Madagascar are switching their gaze to China for educational and economic opportunities. Preliminary findings and future directions for research with the Malagasy diaspora in Guangzhou, China will be presented. In particular, this presentation will explore the historical and cultural context of the transnational linkages between these two countries, and the strategies migrants use to adapt without a large community of compatriots upon whom they can rely.


China and Africa: An Evolving Relationship
4:00pm Thursday, March 3, 2016 @ 5246 Law School
David H. Shinn 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso
Adjunct Professor, George Washington University

Since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a sharp increase in interaction between China and the 54 countries of Africa. In 2009, for example, China became Africa’s largest trading partner, passing the United States. After discussing China’s interests in Africa, this presentation will look at the government-to-government, trade, investment, aid, education, media, and military/security ties between China and Africa. It will also identify the challenges and problems that China faces in Africa. During the question and answer period, Dr. Shinn will be happy to explain how this relationship impacts the United States and the role of additional emerging nations in Africa. The lecture is a result of a book he co-authored titled China and Africa: A Century of Engagement.

Chinese and Nigerian Textile Manufacture and Trade
12:00pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016 @ 206 Ingraham Hall
Elisha Renne 
Professor of Anthropology and African Studies
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The United Nigerian Textiles Limited (UNTL) mill—the largest in northern Nigeria— was established in Kaduna in 1964. UNTL, which represented a partnership between the Hong Kong-based CHA Group and the Nigerian Northern Regional Development Corporation, provided printed cotton textiles to Nigerian and other West African markets until the mill closed in 2007. Nonetheless, the CHA Group continues its involvement in textile manufacturing in Lagos and marketing through its brand of Da Viva® high-quality cotton textiles sold at authorized dealerships throughout Nigeria.

Will Africa Feed China?
6:00pm Thursday, April 28, 2016 @ 5246 The Law School
Deborah Bräutigam 
Director of International Development Program and China-Africa Research Initiative School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University

Is China building a new empire in rural Africa? Few development topics are as controversial and emotionally charged as the belief that the Chinese government is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China. Prof. Deborah Bräutigam, one of the world’s leading experts on China and Africa, probes the myths and realities behind the media headlines. Chinese farming investments are in fact surprisingly limited, and land acquisitions modest. Defying expectations, China actually exports more food to Africa than it imports. Why is the reality of Chinese investment so different from the headlines? Is this picture likely to change? What role will China play as rural Africa moves from subsistence to commercial agriculture, and China builds a portfolio of tools to allow its agribusiness firms to “go global”? In this talk, she will answer these questions as it sheds new light on China’s evolving global quest for food security and Africa’s possibilities for structural transformation.

Required Readings:

  • Park, Yoon Jung. 2008. A Matter of Honour: Being Chinese in South Africa. Lexington Books
  • French, Howard. 2014. China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. Knopf
  • Mohan, G., Lampert, B., Tan-Mullins, M., & Chang, D. 2014. Chinese Migrants and Africa's Development: New Imperialists or Agents of Change? Zed Books

Recent Published Books on China in Africa:

Brautigam, Deborah. 2015. Will Africa Feed China? Oxford University Press.
Alden, Chris and Sérgio Chichava eds. 2014. China and Mozambique: From Comrades to Capitalists. Fanele.
Chau, Donovan. 2014. Exploiting Africa: The Influence of Maoist China in Algeria, Ghana, and Tanzania. Naval Institute Press.
Bright, Rachel. 2013. Chinese Labour in South Africa, 1902-10: Race, Violence, and Global Spectacle. Palgrave Macmillan.
Corkin, Ms Lucy. 2013.Uncovering African Agency: Angola's Management of China's Credit Lines. Ashgate.
King, Kenneth. 2013. China’s Aid and Soft Power in Africa: The Case of Education and Training. James Currey.

Outside Guests:

Yoon Jung Park, is a founder/coordinator of Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network, Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University and Georgetown University. She holds Ph.D. in sociology and her research focuses on Chinese diaspora in South Africa.
Howard W. French, is a journalist and an associate professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He wrote from Africa for The Washington Post and The New York Times. He is the recipient of two Overseas Press Club awards, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee.
Lesley Braun (TBC), is post-doctoral researcher at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on Chinese in Congo.
May Tan-Mullins, is associate professor in International Relations at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China. She holds Ph.D. in geography and her research focuses on energy policies in China-Africa developmental relations.
Adebisuyi Adeniran (TBC), is a lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.