The Chinese century and the City of Gold : on race and labor

Streaming Media


The Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference Organising Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at Lingnan University, Hong Kong; and the Institute for Emerging Markets at HKUST

Event Title

CAAC2021 6th Online Mini-symposium : Ethnographies of Mobility : Circular Migration and Uneven Geographies

Document Type





9:00 p.m.


Online Session via Zoom


This paper examines how the history of racialized migrant labour across the region makes possible capital accumulation among Chinese migrants to South Africa. Decades after the end of mine migrancy, the system of racialized migrant labour on which mining depended, Chinese migrant traders rely on the casual labour of an African precariat, migrants from the main sending countries to the mines who continue generations of journeying to the City of Gold and are racialized anew. Engaging ethnographic fieldwork with historical analysis, Huang illustrates how circular migration and the devaluation of African migrant labour born on the goldfields persist, perhaps unexpectedly, at Chinese wholesale malls located along Johannesburg's old mining belt. The paper proposes a palimpsestic approach to thinking about Chinese and African futures. The unfolding "Chinese Century" does not begin and end with the arrival of Chinese migrants but is layered with longer histories of racial capitalism, colonialism, migrancy, and extraction in the Golden City, including the debris of European imperial centuries.



Additional Information


Mingwei Huang is an assistant professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and fellow in the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality at Dartmouth College. Her work has been published in Scholar & Feminist Online, Radical History Review, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Public Culture (forthcoming), and Anxious Joburg: The Inner Lives of a Global South City (Wits UP, 2020). Her research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and supported by the Centre for Indian Studies at the University of Witwatersrand.

Recommended Citation

Huang, M. (2021, July 2). The Chinese century and the City of Gold: On race and labor [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://commons.ln.edu.hk/videos/901/