Only decades ago, the population of Guangzhou was almost wholly Chinese. Today, it is a global city, a place where people from around the world go to make new lives, find themselves, or further their careers. A large number of these migrants are small-scale traders from Africa who deal in Chinese goods—often knockoffs or copies—to send back to their home countries. In this talk, Professor Gordon Mathews explores how Guangzhou became a center of “low-end globalization.” He will consider how the informal economy of low-end globalization can take place between two groups—Chinese and sub-Saharan Africans—that do not share a common language, culture, or religion. He will also examine the role of religion among these traders: for some of them, particularly Christians, evangelizing China is their deepest priority, more important to them than trade. Finally, he will consider what happens when Africans move beyond their status as temporary residents and begin to put down roots and establish families – will we ever see a Chinese Barack Obama?
Gordon Mathews received his PhD from Cornell University in 1993 and is currently a professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chunking Mansions, Hong Kong (University of Chicago Press, 2011), which documents the lives of working-class immigrants in an intensely globalized, polyethnic urban enclave of Hong Kong. The Chinese translation of this book won the Hong Kong Book Prize in 2014. More recently he has published The World in Guangzhou: Africans and Other Foreigners in South China’s Global Marketplace (University of Chicago Press, 2017), with the assistance of CUHK graduate students Linessa Dan Lin and Yang Yang, which will form the basis of his lecture at NYUSH. Both his research and his teaching have been honored with several awards and prizes, and he has served as the president of the Society for East Asian Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association and the vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Anthropological Society.
The “Cultural and Social Worlds of Global Cities” is a lecture series that brings important scholars to campus engaged in the study of global cities from humanistic and social scientific perspectives. For this particular installment of the series, Gordon Mathews’ lecture will also serve as the keynote address for the Young Scholars Colloquium on Global Asia, organized by the Center for Global Asia & the Global Perspectives on Society Teaching Fellows Program.
Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Associate Professor of History Duane Corpis.
Location & Details:
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