African Musicians in Search of the 'Chinese Dream': Beyond the Narratives of Trade and Immigration

Talk by Roberto Castillo, PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University. 

Over the last decade, the number of Africans arriving in Guangzhou (and surrounding cities) has seen no parallel in the history of the region. As African presence in the city remains a significant foreign presence, the number of Africans involved in different segments of the cultural scene has gradually increased. Drawing from 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork amongst African musicians in the city, this talk is an exploration of their trajectories, entanglements, hopes and possibilities as they attempt to become celebrities both in China and beyond. In an attempt to shift the focus away from the economic discourses that underwrite most accounts of "Africans in China," in this talk I argue that in order to have a more comprehensive understanding of African presence in the region, it is crucial that we look into personal aspirations—and a little bit beyond the pervasive trading and immigration narratives.

Roberto Castillo is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, conducting cultural research about African presence in Guangzhou. Roberto is originally from Mexico, but has been living, working and researching in Asia since 2006. In addition to Cultural Studies, he is trained in Journalism, International Relations, Political Science and History. Since working as an editor for Xinhua News Agency in Beijing in 2009, he became interested in the increasing presence of foreigners in China. He took this interest further in 2010, completing a Master of Cultural Studies at The University of Sydney, Australia. He also administers a website dedicated to the wider field of Africans in China: www.africansinchina.net

Mapping Asia is an unfolding publication, exhibition, and programme series presented by Asia Art Archive, that explores multiple vantage points from which to consider Asia, looking beyond inherited boundaries, histories, and political and economic systems to entanglements and connections across time, sites, and geographies.

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