Feeling at home in the “Chocolate City”: an exploration of place-making practices and structures of belonging amongst Africans in Guangzhou
Abstract Over the last two decades, the shifts brought about by the emergence of Asia as a key player in global capitalism have led to countless Africans opting for Asian destinations as part of their trade and migration strategies. The implications of the constant ebb and flow of African entrepreneurs in Southern China and the transnational trajectories, connections, and practices they enable have been relatively understudied. This article focuses on place-making practices and structures of belonging surrounding those Africans living in (and circulating through) Guangzhou. Drawing on my fieldwork, I locate possibilities for place-making and belonging within transnational multiethnic microcommunities and highlight practices that have emerged from the assembling of transnational and translocal flows in residential clusters, community organisations, and religious congregations, for instance. I contend that the presence and intermingling of diverse transient subjects (both African and Chinese) nurtures “alternative imaginations” of self, place, home, and belonging that alter extant notions of national and cultural identity, ethnicity, and race in 21st century Asia.
Keywords: “Africans in Guangzhou,” “place-making,” belonging, transnational, migration
Roberto Castillo is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. Roberto is originally from Mexico but has been living, working and researching in the Asian region since 2006. Besides Cultural Studies, his training is in Journalism, International Relations, Political Science and History. Since 2009, when he was working as an editor for Xinhua News Agency in Beijing, he became highly interested in the increasing presence of foreigners in China and their transnational connections. In 2010, while coursing a Masters degree in The University of Sydney, Roberto started doing cultural research about Africans in Guangzhou. He also administers a website dedicated to the wider field of Africans in China at www.africansinchina.net.