This year, Ying-Ying Tiffany Liu, Doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Migration and Diaspora Fellow for 2015-2016 co-organized a conference titled Dialogues with Ethnography: The Lived Experiences of Chinese in Africa and will publish an article titled “Exploring Guanxi in a Cross-Cultural Context: The Case of Cantonese-Speaking Chinese in Johannesburg” in the Journal of Chinese Overseas December 2017 issue.

The conference

The two-day workshop at the University of Vienna, from June 26-27, 2017, co-sponsored by MDS, “provided a collaborative space where a small group of PhD students and post-docs shared and discussed their recent field research experiences about Chinese migration in Africa to critically reflect on anthropological method and theory.”

“As the demographic and regional backgrounds of new-generation Chinese immigrants are much more diverse than those of previous generations, and the number of Chinese migrants to Africa has grown significantly since the late 1990s, all workshop participants agreed that there is a need for more field research projects in different African countries; and most importantly, there is a need for more scholarly collaborations especially in the rapidly growing field of Migration Studies. This workshop benefited from each participant’s diverse academic background (anthropology, geography, economics, law, sociology, political science), which confirmed that Institutes such as Migration and Diaspora Studies at Carleton University are an ideal space to provide connections and opportunities for researchers from different background in order to bring different disciplinary perspectives on migration.”

The article

“Using a case study of recently arrived Cantonese-speaking migrants, this article examines the role of guanxi in shaping Chinese newcomers’ economic activities and opportunities in South Africa. In Johannesburg, Cantonese-speaking migrants tend to be employed in restaurant and fahfee (gambling) enterprises, which are partially inherited from the early generations of South African Chinese. Through narratives and stories, this article reveals that Cantonese newcomers often strengthen personal and employment relationships through the practice of guanxi, but that doing so can also constrain their employment decisions. Moreover, the ambiguous boundary between the act of bribery and the practice of guanxi may facilitate Chinese participation but can also result in the victimization of the newcomers.”

Guanxi is “a Chinese concept that can be loosely translated as ‘interpersonal connection.'” Lui realized the power of this connection in the economic activities of Chinese newcomers in Johannesburg.

Ying-Ying Tiffany Liu is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Graduate Fellow in Migration and Diaspora Studies (2015) at Carleton University. She was a Visiting Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg (2014-2016). With support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and TD Fellowship, she has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Johannesburg for a total period of fourteen months (November 2014-2015; July-September 2016) for her doctoral research project.