Dispatch Report


Yanyin ZI

2016/3/29-2016/7/3; 2016/7/13-2016/8/15; 2016/8/22-2016/9/1
Centre for African Language Diversity (CALDi), University of Cape Town, South Africa

University of British Columbia, Canada

Aga Khan University, Kenya

2016/9/2-27; 2016/10/1-2017/2/16
Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne, Germany

Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
1.Research Project

My main objective of visiting University of Cape Town and University of Cologne was to research on the formation process of Asian community in Southern Africa. Taking the Chinese merchants in Southern Africa as my research subject, my research focused on the following areas: ①Employment relations between Chinese merchants and local assistants; ②Local perception of the image of China; ③Employment relations between ethnic groups in Southern Africa. I intended to deepen the theory of intergroup relations through exchanging ideas with scholars who were interested in the same topic.

2.Details of My Stay
(1) South Africa

During my stay in University of Cape Town from March 29th to September 1st, I managed to exchange ideas with scholars and students from the Department of Anthropology and Linguistics. Furthermore, I had several discussions with Prof. Francis Nyamnjoh who encouraged me to publish my dissertation as a book. Besides, I attended weekly seminars in the Department of Anthropology. In June, I was given an opportunity to present my ongoing research during the seminar. It was a very rewarding presentation as I received many constructive comments from students and professors. In May, I joined a two-day-workshop ‘Migration and Agency in a Globalizing World’ in Stellenbosch University and had a good conversation with experts who worked on Asia and Africa migration issues. During my stay in Cape Town, I also had an opportunity to visit the factory of Hisense Group in Atlantis. I considered it as my pioneer research on employment relations between ethnic groups. Through interviews with the Human Resource Representative and the Production Manager, I discovered some interesting research topics for my next field research. Last but not least, during my stay in Cape Town I also managed to write up a coauthored paper, which was titled ‘Decoding relationships between Chinese merchants and Batswana shop assistants: The Case of China Shops in Gaborone’.
During my stay in UCT, I became acquainted with some Chinese scholars from Sun Yat-sen University and Minzu University of China, and had the opportunities to join some study meetings with them.


 Photo 1 Up-Campus of University of Cape Town


 Photo 2 Seminar at Hisense


During my stay in Canada between July 4th and 12th, I attended ISSCO conference (International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas) which was held by University of British Colombia. I presented a paper titled ‘Unveiling the Mask of Batswana Customers: We Don’t Like China Shops But We Still Need Fong Kong Goods’. After the conference, I joined a discussion on Chinese immigrant issues in Vancouver region with researchers from University of British Colombia.


Photo 3 Presentation at ISSCO Conference


Furthermore, I attended CA/AC (Chinese in Africa/Africans in China) Conference at Aga Khan University in Kenya from August 16th to 21st. I presented a paper named “China shop as an unauthorized nation brand in Botswana”. Since many scholars who research on China-Africa relations gathered in the conference, I had stimulating discussions with them and broadened my horizon.


 Photo 4 Presentation at CA/AC conference


I was a visiting scholar in Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne, Germany between September 2nd and February 16th. During that period of time, my main focus was on my book publication and my new project initiation. I had several conversations with Prof. Peter Dannenburg on Chinese companies’ performance in South Africa. Moreover, I attended a conference named ‘African-Asian Encounters (III) Afrasian Transformations: Beyond Grand Narratives’ from September 28 to 30 at Goethe University. I gave a presentation based on my paper ‘Chinese Investment in Africa: Ground Level Interaction Matters’. In 2017, I attended a workshop named “Africa-China: Business and Migration” from January 12th to 13th. I presented my research proposal on intergroup relations in employment in Southern Africa, and received many constructive feedbacks from commentators and fellow researchers.

3.Impressive Experiences

I was scared of the security issues in South Africa at the beginning. However, through my living experience in Cape Town, I obtained understanding of the security issues on a new level. From my home stay family and carpool passengers, I did not experience that much xenophobic treatment as expected. Since I was hearing reports concerning theft and robbery almost every day in Cape Town, I was alert during my stay. However, on the other hand, I was also touched by the kindness and warmth of local people. For example, one day, I had to take a train from Stellenbosch to go back to Cape Town in the evening. All passengers were kind to me, and a local lady was so worried about my safety when she knew I was traveling alone in the evening. She asked for my phone number and called me later on to confirm if I had arrived home safely. The majority of the local people also considered security as one of the most serious issues in the country. However, their kindness to foreigners (Asians) was surprising. I would like to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of this point through my future research.

4.Achievement and Reflection

Through this project I managed to strengthen my network with scholars who work on Asian-Africa relations. Furthermore, through conversations with scholars in South Africa and Germany, I managed to identify the next research topic. Conference presentation and workshop attendance enabled me to share research results with other scholars. Book and journal paper publication helped me to reach a wider range of readership in the world.
However, due to many attendances to conferences and workshops, I did not have much time to read books during my stay. I later realized that although it is curial to exchange ideas with other scholars, it is also important to read more and digest the ideas afterwards in order to deepen the theories in my research area.

5.Future Work

The issue of youth unemployment in Cape Town has garnered much attention in recent years. I obtained some understanding on how difficult it is to manage the local labors through the interviews with Human Resource Representative in Hisense Group. It is said that there were many conflicts concerning work ethics between local labor and Chinese managers. I was told that local employees’ drug addiction has been one of the factors that impede their work performance. My research analysis has so far focused on foreigners and their background in Southern Africa. However, in order to obtain a deeper understanding of intergroup relations in Southern Africa, it is necessary to delve into domestic social issues in Southern Africa. In the future, I plan to pay more attention to social problems and race issues in Southern Africa while gathering data concerning intergroup relations.