Global Mixed Race

Posted in Africa, Anthologies, Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Europe, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2014-08-18 02:29Z by Steven

Global Mixed Race

New York University Press
March 2014
357 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780814770733
Paper ISBN: 9780814789155

Edited by:

Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, Senior Lecturer
National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Stephen Small, Associate Professor of African American Studies
University of California, Berkeley

Minelle Mahtani, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography and the Program in Journalism
University of Toronto, Scarborough

Miri Song, Professor of Sociology
University of Kent

Paul Spickard, Professor of History and Affiliate Professor of Black Studies, Asian American Studies, East Asian Studies, Religious Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Patterns of migration and the forces of globalization have brought the issues of mixed race to the public in far more visible, far more dramatic ways than ever before. Global Mixed Race examines the contemporary experiences of people of mixed descent in nations around the world, moving beyond US borders to explore the dynamics of racial mixing and multiple descent in Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Okinawa, Australia, and New Zealand.  In particular, the volume’s editors ask: how have new global flows of ideas, goods, and people affected the lives and social placements of people of mixed descent?  Thirteen original chapters address the ways mixed-race individuals defy, bolster, speak, and live racial categorization, paying attention to the ways that these experiences help us think through how we see and engage with social differences. The contributors also highlight how mixed-race people can sometimes be used as emblems of multiculturalism, and how these identities are commodified within global capitalism while still considered by some as not pure or inauthentic. A strikingly original study, Global Mixed Race carefully and comprehensively considers the many different meanings of racial mixedness.

Contents

  • Global Mixed Race: An Introduction / Stephen Small and Rebecca C. King-O’Riain
  • Part I: Societies with Established Populations of Mixed Descent
    • 1. Multiraciality and Census Classification in Global Perspective / Ann Morning
    • 2. “Rider of Two Horses”: Eurafricans in Zambia / Juliette Bridgette Milner-Thornton
    • 3. “Split Me in Two”: Gender, Identity, and “Race Mixing” in the Trinidad and Tobago Nation / Rhoda Reddock
    • 4. In the Laboratory of Peoples’ Friendship: Mixed People in Kazakhstan from the Soviet Era to the Present / Saule K. Ualiyeva and Adrienne L. Edgar
    • 5. Competing Narratives: Race and Multiraciality in the Brazilian Racial Order / G. Reginald Daniel and Andrew Michael Lee
    • 6. Antipodean Mixed Race: Australia and New Zealand / Farida Fozdar and Maureen Perkins
    • 7. Negotiating Identity Narratives among Mexico’s Cosmic Race / Christina A. Sue
  • Part II: Places with Newer Populations of Mixed Descent
    • 8. Multiraciality and Migration: Mixed-Race American Okinawans, 1945–1972 / Lily Anne Yumi Welty
    • 9. The Curious Career of the One-Drop Rule: Multiraciality and Membership in Germany Today / Miriam Nandi and Paul Spickard
    • 10. Capturing “Mixed Race” in the Decennial UK Censuses: Are Current Approaches Sustainable in the Age of Globalization and Superdiversity? / Peter J. Aspinall and Miri Song
    • 11. Exporting the Mixed-Race Nation: Mixed-Race Identities in the Canadian Context / Minelle Mahtani, Dani Kwan-Lafond, and Leanne Taylor
  • Global Mixed Race: A Conclusion / Rebecca C. King-O’Riain
  • Bibliography
  • About the Contributors
  • Index
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The problem with sub-Saharan Africa and DNA analysis tools

Posted in Africa, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive on 2014-08-09 16:06Z by Steven

The problem with sub-Saharan Africa and DNA analysis tools

Genealogy Adventures
2014-07-08

Brian Sheffey

This is the first post in a series that covers issues I’ve experienced with reporting of sub-Saharan African results in DNA analysis. This series of posts will have a particular emphasis on DNA testing for African Americans. Over the next series of posts, I’ll be looking at the strengths and weaknesses of DNA admixture analysis tools – with tips for things to look out for.

I recently had the opportunity to upload my Ancestry.com DNA results to Gedmatch.com. And what a revelatory experience Gedmatch.com has been. To be honest, this DNA analysis service is proving fascinaing. There is just so much to explore and comprehend. I have been doing a LOT of research in order to get my head around all of the information Gedmatch has provided.

My experience with Gedmatch has better enabled me to finely tune a quibble I’ve had with my Ancestry.com results. Don’t get me wrong, Ancestry’s DNA test has done exactly what I wanted it to – put me in touch with distant (and not so distant) relations from my various family lines. It’s allowed me to find my 4x great Sheffey grandfather. And it put me on the right track towards identifying my 4 x Roane great-grandfather.

My niggle with Ancestry’s results has to do with my admixtures and the countries it genetically tied me to. These results were always going to be general in nature. Ancestry.com states as much. The quibble I had has to do with Africa. And my recent experience with Gedmatch has allowed me to better understand the nature of my quibble.

DNA test results are based on data sets. These data sets are compiled by DNA test result databases. A database can only be as precise as the data that’s put into it. In this case, precision DNA results rely on large numbers of a population 1) having a DNA test and 2) those results being added to a data set which is imported into a database. For instance, a data set with 200,000 DNA results from the Baltic region of Eastern Europe will provide more precise insights than a data set of 50,000 individuals from the same region. It also depends on how each individual is classified and sub-classified (i.e. Bulgarian, Caucasian Bulgarian, Central Asian Bulgarian, Altaic Bulgarian, etc).

This brings me to my quibble about Africa. The way African DNA test results are classified, you would thing Africa was one large country populated by a homogenous people. This simply is not the case. The continental African population is arguably one of the most heterogenous populations. The admixture analysis tools and reports I’ve used on Ancestry.com and Gedmatch simply don’t reflect this diversity of African peoples…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Chinese marriages boom in Guangzhou: but will it be ’til death do us part’?

Posted in Africa, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive on 2014-08-05 17:42Z by Steven

Afro-Chinese marriages boom in Guangzhou: but will it be ’til death do us part’?

South China Morning Post Magazine
South China Morning Post
Hong Kong, China
2014-06-01

Jenni Marsh, Assistant Editor


Jennifer Tsang and Eman Okonkwo at their wedding in Guangzhou in April. Photo: Jenni Marsh

Guangzhou is witnessing many Afro-Chinese marriages, but the mainland’s lack of citizenship rights for husbands and a crackdown on foreign visas means families live in fear of being torn apart, writes Jenni Marsh

Eman Okonkwo’s foot-tapping at the altar is not a sign of nerves. The groom’s palms aren’t sweaty, there are no pre-wedding jitters and certainly no second thoughts. Today he is realising a dream imagined by countless African merchants in Guangzhou: he is marrying a Chinese bride.

Seven days earlier, Jennifer Tsang’s family was oblivious to their daughter’s romance. Like many local women dating African men, the curvaceous trader from Foshan, who is in her late 20s – that dreaded “leftover woman” age – had feared her parents would be racially prejudiced.

Today, though – having tentatively given their blessing – they snuck into the underground Royal Victory Church, in Guangzhou, looking over their shoulders for police as they entered the downtown tower block. Non-state-sanctioned religious events like this are illegal on the mainland.

Okonkwo, 42, doesn’t have a single relative at the rambunctious Pentecostal ceremony, but is nevertheless delighted.

“Today is so special,” beams the Nigerian, “because I have married a Chinese girl. And that makes me half-African, half-Chinese.”

In Guangzhou, weddings like this take place every day. There are no official figures on Afro-Chinese marriages but visit any trading warehouse in the city and you will see scores of mixed-race couples running wholesale shops, their coffee-coloured, hair-braided children racing through the corridors…


Guinean trader Cellou with his wife, Cherry, and their children. Photo: Robin Fall

…Chinese prejudice against Africans is normally based on three aspects: traditional aesthetic values, an ignorance of African culture and society, and the language barrier.

Furthermore, until the 1970s, foreigners were not permitted to live in the mainland, let alone marry a Chinese. When a child is born, the parents must register its ethnicity with the authorities: of the 56 boxes they can tick, “mixed-race” is not an option.

But there are factors other than racism that might lead a family to reject a mixed marriage.

Linessa Lin Dan, a PhD student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong researching Afro-Chinese relations in Guangzhou, says many African men who propose already have wives in their home countries – Muslims are permitted by their religion to take multiple spouses. Furthermore, Lin has heard tales of husbands returning to Nigeria on a business trip, leaving a mobile-phone number that doesn’t connect and disappearing.

“The Chinese wife is left with their children, and shamed for marrying a hei gui [black ghost],” says Lin…

Read the entire article here.

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Commercial music radio, race and identity in South Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, South Africa on 2014-07-11 06:11Z by Steven

Commercial music radio, race and identity in South Africa

Media Culture & Society
Published online before print: 2014-07-08
DOI: 10.1177/0163443714536076

Tanja Estella Bosch
University of Cape Town, South Africa

In South Africa, listeners often believe that radio stations deliberately constitute their audiences in terms of race. This article further explores this notion using commercial music station Good Hope FM as a case study. Radio creates a textured soundscape that is experienced as part of the material culture of the home; it contributes to the creation of domestic environments and it can help maintain and establish identities. These assertions are explored further through interviews with listeners. Mediated experience has long influenced self-identity, and this study explores popular conceptualizations of GHFM as a ‘coloured’ or mixed-race radio station, through these listener interviews, conducted in the home. The article explores the possibility that the symbolic arrangement of broadcast music and talk elements in one ensemble, embody and expresses group self-consciousness; and that the cultural consumption of GHFM leads to the formulation of an imagined identity based on ethnicity. Consumption of radio station content becomes a dialectical identity-forming process played out through tuning in. While GHFM listeners re-articulate normative discourses of identity and old apartheid constructions in their reflections on their media consumption, the article shows the act of tuning in as a critical part of their dialectical identity-forming process.

Read or purchase the article here.

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JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

Posted in Africa, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Live Events, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, South Africa on 2014-06-08 22:21Z by Steven

JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Facing an Unequal Word: Challenges for Global Sociology
International Sociological Association
Yokohama, Japan
2014-07-13 through 2014-07-19

Wednesday, 2014-07-16, 18:00 JST (Local Time)
Room: 315

Erica Chito Childs, Sociology
Hunter College, City University of New York

Mapping attitudes toward intermarriage—who is and who is not an acceptable mate—offers an incisive means through which imaginings of belonging—race, ethnicity, nationhood, citizenship and culture—can be critically evaluated.  In particular, social constructions of race and difference involve discussions of purity, race identity and taboos against interracial sex and marriage. Drawing from qualitative interviews and ethnographic research in six countries on attitudes toward intermarriage, this paper explores these issues of intermarriage in a global context.  Through a comparison of qualitative data I collected in Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Portugal, South Africa and the United States, I offer a theoretical framework and provide an empirical basis, to understand the concept of intermarriage and what it tells us about racial boundaries in a global context. For example, in the United States, the issue of intermarriage is discussed as interracial with less attention paid to inter-religious or inter-ethnic, to the point that those concepts are rarely used.  Similarly in South Africa, despite the end of apartheid decades ago, marriage across racial categories is still highly problematized and uncommon.  Yet globally there is less consensus of what constitutes intermarriage—sometimes intercultural, interethnic, or any number of words with localized meanings.  In South America and Australia, the debate seems to revolve more around indigenous status, citizenship and national identity such as who is Australian or who is Ecuadoran?  As indigenous populations rally for rights and representation how does this change the discourse on what intermarriage mean?  Looking globally, what differences matter? What boundaries are most salient in determining the attitudes of different groups toward intermarriage?  How are various communities responding to intermarriage, particularly if there are a growing number of “mixed” families? This research on attitudes toward intermarriage adds to our understanding of constructions of race, racism and racialized, gendered and sexualized beliefs and practices globally.

For more information, click here.

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After Tiananmen Square, New Lives On A New Continent

Posted in Africa, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Economics, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-06-08 21:41Z by Steven

After Tiananmen Square, New Lives On A New Continent

Tell Me More
National Public Radio
2014-06-04

Michel Martin, Host

After the democracy protests were crushed in 1989, many thought China would turn inward. Instead, a million Chinese citizens moved to Africa. Howard French discusses his book China’s Second Continent.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I’m Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We’re going to start the program today by taking note of a difficult moment in history. Twenty-five years ago today, the Chinese army attacked demonstrators who had been occupying Tiananmen Square, protesting for more democracy and freedom. The crackdown brought international condemnation. Some observers believed it would lead the communist country to become increasingly inward-looking and isolated. It turned out that did not happen. Today, China stands as a major global power, and one part of the world in which it clearly rivals the U.S. as an influence on politics and the economy is Africa. Thousands of Chinese companies have established themselves in Africa over the last two decades. China-Africa trade has surged from $10 billion in 2000 to $200 billion last year, far surpassing the U.S. and any European country. China’s top leaders make multiple trips to the continent every year. But, as author Howard French tells us in his new book, just as important as those high-level visits are the people who are rarely discussed. And they are the million or so Chinese expatriates who aren’t just passing through, but are staying and moving into all walks of life. That’s who the former New York Times bureau chief spent time with as he prepared his latest book, “China’s Second Continent: How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire In Africa.” And Howard French is with us now. Welcome back to the program. Thanks so much for joining us.

HOWARD FRENCH: It’s great to be with you again…

…MARTIN: If you’re just joining us, I’m speaking with Howard French. We’re talking about his new book, “China’s Second Continent: How A Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire In Africa.” The former New York Times bureau chief conducted interviews in Mandarin, French and Portuguese, among other languages, to, kind of, get to the ground level of how China is influencing the continent. One of the characters that struck a chord with me was Hao Shengli, whom you met in Mozambique. Tell us a little bit about his story, if you would. I was struck by the fact that he wanted his sons to marry local women, but I didn’t get the sense that this was a love-match he was seeking, here.

FRENCH: Hao was interesting because, unlike most of the people I profile, he was not a working-class person. He had started up several businesses in China that had done reasonably well. He had some savings. He set off to the Middle East – tried to do business there. He failed. He comes back to China. And he goes to a trade fair and meets some people in Guangzhou who tell him that there’s all kinds of opportunity in Africa. And so he then begins to fixate on Africa. And he ends up in Mozambique on the theory that, as a Portuguese speaking country, they’ll be very few Chinese people there. He spoke no Portuguese, but he figured, at least, he wouldn’t have any cutthroat Chinese competitors. And so he goes to Mozambique. He doesn’t do well in the capital. He discovers, to his disgust, that there are a lot of Chinese people there, in fact. And so he sets off for the countryside. And he ends up finagling his way into buying a very nice piece of irrigated, very rich farmland. And he gets into these relationships with the local people. And their relationship becomes ever more testy, and so he’s worrying. Even though he’s got a long-term lease, he’s wondering if the villagers won’t find a way to contest it, or the local government will take it back from him. And he settles upon a scheme, which absolutely astounded me, of bringing his teenage sons from China to settle there with him – and to have children by local women, in whose names he could place the property and control it indirectly through these people, who, as Mozambican citizens, would legally have the right to own land forever. And so that’s the scene that I stumble upon in this rural place.

MARTIN: It was interesting to me how much racism you personally encountered over the course of your travels. I mean, just the kind of day-to-day, casual reminders of distance that is certainly not polite in this country anymore. I’m thinking about when you went to this hotel in Liberia. And then you went to this room to drop off your things and wash up, and there was no towel there. And then when you told your host this, he summoned a young Chinese man who worked for him and told him to fetch me one. He says, we don’t usually give them out because most Chinese bring their own. They wouldn’t want to use one that a black person might have used. I mean, put this in some context for me. I mean, do you think that this is, kind of, growing pains, and that at some point will people have moved beyond that? What’s your sense?

FRENCH: Everywhere I went, the local Chinese person referred to the people, in whose midst they had come to settle, as black people. You know, they would say, the blacks, the blacks, the blacks, the blacks. They wouldn’t say the Ghanaians, or the Tanzanians, or the Zambians, or the this or the that. It was just, the blacks. And this refusal, or reluctance, to allow any kind of finer identity – to render them totally anonymous as just simply black, as if that was the only pertinent detail about them, was very telling for me. That whether or not this is a passing phase, I can’t really say. But for the time being, the Africans are just, essentially, serving as a backdrop for Chinese processes – somebody that will be useful for them – or a place that will be useful for them for the time being along the way, as they proceed up the ladder of hierarchies, if you will, of civilizations of nations…

Listen to the interview here. Download the interview here.

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Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century

Posted in Africa, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-06-06 22:59Z by Steven

Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century

University of Virginia Press
October 2013
224 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 9780813934884
Paper ISBN: 9780813934891
Ebook ISBN: 9780813934907

Colleen C. O’Brien, Associate Professor of English
University of South Carolina, Upstate

As in many literatures of the New World grappling with issues of slavery and freedom, stories of racial insurrection frequently coincided with stories of cross-racial romance in nineteenth-century U.S. print culture. Colleen O’Brien explores how authors such as Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Livermore, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda imagined the expansion of race and gender-based rights as a hemispheric affair, drawing together the United States with Africa, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. Placing less familiar women writers in conversation with their more famous contemporaries—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Maria Child—O’Brien traces the transnational progress of freedom through the antebellum cultural fascination with cross-racial relationships and insurrections. Her book mines a variety of sources—fiction, political rhetoric, popular journalism, race science, and biblical treatises—to reveal a common concern: a future in which romance and rebellion engender radical social and political transformation.

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China in Africa

Posted in Africa, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Economics, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-06-05 14:29Z by Steven

China in Africa

The Leonard Lopate Show
WNYC 93.9 FM New York
2014-06-04

Leonard Lopate, Host

China’s presence in Africa has been growing and it is shaping, and reshaping, the future of millions of people. Howard French, prizewinning foreign correspondent and former New York Times bureau chief in Shanghai and in West and Central Africa, talks about China’s economic, political, and human presence across the African continent. In China’s Second Continent, French crafts a layered investigation, looking at policy-shaping moguls and diplomats and the ordinary men and women navigating the street-level realities of cooperation, prejudice, corruption, and opportunity in Africa.

Listen to the interview here. Download the interview here.

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China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers

Posted in Africa, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Audio, Economics, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-06-03 13:03Z by Steven

China Turns To Africa For Resources, Jobs And Future Customers

Fresh Air, WHYY-FM Philadelphia
National Public Radio
2014-05-27

Terry Gross, Host

Dave Davies, Senior Reporter

China’s economic engagement in Africa can be measured in dollars — for instance, the $71 million airport expansion contract in Mali, funded by American foreign aid, that went to a Chinese construction firm.

More remarkably, it can be measured in people: More than a million Chinese citizens have permanently moved to Africa, buying land, starting businesses and settling among local populations.

Journalist Howard French, who spent years reporting on Africa and China for The New York Times and The Washington Post, has a new book that looks at these trends. In China’s Second Continent, French draws on interviews with Chinese and African businesspeople, government officials and ordinary citizens to explore China’s presence in 15 African countries.

He says there’s a debate about the long-term consequences of China’s push into the African continent: Will it create development and prosperity, or will it lead to exploitation reminiscent of 19th-century European colonialism?

French tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies that African citizens, for their part, would like Chinese businesses to be more open and transparent. He also explains that when Chinese leaders look at Africa, they don’t just see arable land and natural resources — they see a potential market for Chinese products…

…DAVIES: You spent some time in Mozambique with a Chinese immigrant, Hao Shengli – is that – am I getting close to his name?

FRENCH: Hao Shengli.

DAVIES: Hao Shengli. Just tell us a little bit about how he got there and what kind of farming business he established.

FRENCH: So Hao Shengli had a been sort of a moderately successful businessman back in China who had a peculiar marital history. He had taken on several wives in succession, but after each divorce, had maintained an intimate and financial relationship with the past wife, even as he took on a new wife. And so this led to a need for him to continually amass more and more money. And this drove him eventually to seek opportunity outside of China.

He initially tries to open some businesses in the Middle East. They don’t succeed. And he went to a trade fair in southern China where, for the first time, he’s exposed to talk about opportunities in Africa. And he decided to try his hand there, and this leads him to go to Mozambique where he believed, because it was a Portuguese-speaking country, he wouldn’t find any Chinese people. He -Hao Shengli was driven by this very common motive that we’ve talked about before, where, you know, he wants to get to a place where there’s not going to be any competition from other Chinese people. And so he goes to Mozambique, and I meet him in the capital, Maputo. And he very generously drives me to his farm.

DAVIES: And how is he able to buy so much arable land?

FRENCH: So Hao had come with a certain amount of savings. He was a businessman. In China, he had had a reasonable success. He had saved up – I don’t know – over $100,000, which he had arrived with. And he described a process to me where he sort of makes his way from county to county ingratiating himself to local officials. And in the county where he finally settled, he had apparently helped in the construction of some local roads there. And this had won him great favor with local officials. And he ends up using these relationships to secure interest in this land.

He made a payment for the land, and then he settles on the land. He begins farming Stevia, which is a plant that produces sweeteners that are used in diet sodas. And his scheme is to become a giant Stevia producer and to export to the likes of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, etc. Hao very quickly, though, runs into trouble with residents of the surrounding villages around his land who are resentful of the fact that he secured this very rich and irrigated valley, which had been years earlier owned and run by Portuguese colonials.

And so he develops this scheme to bring his sons to Mozambique – teenage sons, one of them about 17, one of them a few years younger. And his idea that he comes up with is that if he marries off or at least has his sons procreate with local women, that the children of these couplings will become part of his clan. And as Mozambican citizens, they will be able to own the land legally in perpetuity. And his hold on this rich valley then can’t be challenged.

DAVIES: Well that’s – that’s an entrepreneurial spirit to family building, isn’t it?

FRENCH: Absolutely.

DAVIES: This immigrant, Shengli, who had bought this land and was bringing his sons over and had big plans, how exactly did he figure his son would get African wives? I mean, what would they do to get them? Is it a matter of dating? Is it a matter of visiting their parents?

FRENCH: Very good question. I mean, so the exact details are a bit hazy here. But as I began to talk through these questions with Shengli, it emerges that he himself may have had something of a relationship with the girl who ends up being the girlfriend of his first son—either that or he had a relationship with a friend of the girl who becomes the girlfriend of his son.

As we talk these things through, he tells me that through a variety of payments made to essentially the family members of the clan of eligible girls—eligible in his view—girls, he had been able to secure relationships with various local girls. And he exhibited a great deal of impatience for his younger son, who he called Little Fatty. This is a prepubescent – I don’t know – I want to say 14-year-old, who had just arrived very recently from China and really had no sort of native interest in girls yet. And Hao was deeply irritated by this, saying, you know, we’ve got to get on with this, we’ve got to get on with this. You know, he’s thinking about building his clan, and he’s paired off the older son with a girl and – who knows? – but they may have had children by now. And he’s very anxious to see this happen with the younger boy as well…

Read the article here. Listen to the interview (00:26:23)  here. Download the audio here. Read the transcript here.

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China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

Posted in Africa, Asian Diaspora, Books, Economics, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy on 2014-06-02 20:26Z by Steven

China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa

Knopf
2014-05-20
304 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0307956989
9.3 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches

Howard W. French, Associate Professor of Journalism
Columbia University

An exciting, hugely revealing account of China’s burgeoning presence in Africa—a developing empire already shaping, and reshaping, the future of millions of people.

A prizewinning foreign correspondent and former New York Times bureau chief in Shanghai and in West and Central Africa, Howard French is uniquely positioned to tell the story of China in Africa. Through meticulous on-the-ground reporting—conducted in Mandarin, French, and Portuguese, among other languages—French crafts a layered investigation of astonishing depth and breadth as he engages not only with policy-shaping moguls and diplomats, but also with the ordinary men and women navigating the street-level realities of cooperation, prejudice, corruption, and opportunity forged by this seismic geopolitical development. With incisiveness and empathy, French reveals the human face of China’s economic, political, and human presence across the African continent—and in doing so reveals what is at stake for everyone involved.

We meet a broad spectrum of China’s dogged emigrant population, from those singlehandedly reshaping African infrastructure, commerce, and even environment (a self-made tycoon who harnessed Zambia’s now-booming copper trade; a timber entrepreneur determined to harvest the entirety of Liberia’s old-growth redwoods), to those just barely scraping by (a sibling pair running small businesses despite total illiteracy; a karaoke bar owner–cum–brothel madam), still convinced that Africa affords them better opportunities than their homeland. And we encounter an equally panoramic array of African responses: a citizens’ backlash in Senegal against a “Trojan horse” Chinese construction project (a tower complex to be built over a beloved soccer field, which locals thought would lead to overbearing Chinese pressure on their economy); a Zambian political candidate who, having protested China’s intrusiveness during the previous election and lost, now turns accommodating; the ascendant middle class of an industrial boomtown; African mine workers bitterly condemning their foreign employers, citing inadequate safety precautions and wages a fraction of their immigrant counterparts’.

French’s nuanced portraits reveal the paradigms forming around this new world order, from the all-too-familiar echoes of colonial ambition—exploitation of resources and labor; cut-rate infrastructure projects; dubious treaties—to new frontiers of cultural and economic exchange, where dichotomies of suspicion and trust, assimilation and isolation, idealism and disillusionment are in dynamic flux.

Part intrepid travelogue, part cultural census, part industrial and political exposé, French’s keenly observed account ultimately offers a fresh perspective on the most pressing unknowns of modern Sino-African relations: why China is making the incursions it is, just how extensive its cultural and economic inroads are, what Africa’s role in the equation is, and just what the ramifications for both parties—and the watching world—will be in the foreseeable future.

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