Public Roundtable

Through the Looking-Glass


Advertisement at a fabrics market in Guangzhou. Photo by Nellie Chu.


07.12.15 14:00 - 18:00 Paulinerkirche, Papendiek 14, 37073 Göttingen.

Through the Looking-Glass:
Imagining China/Africa Relations through Commodity Aesthetics, Art Media, and Photography

A public roundtable of the CETREN Pilot Project "Entrepreneurial Citizenship"

Organizers: Nellie Chu & Gerda Heck

Program and Speakers

About the roundtable

Over the past decade, the intensification of trade and diplomatic relations between China and countries across the African continent has shifted scholarly attention from the spatial and discursive binary of East and West to the emerging field of South-South relations. Indeed, increasing numbers of interdisciplinary scholars are examining the socio-economic implications of these trans-continental ties that are built by the presence of overseas Chinese in Africa, as well as by African migrants in China. Their studies, however, have tended to focus on the broader political and economic impacts of social engagement among these transnational migrants. Fewer scholars have investigated the subjective and embodied experiences of these cross-cultural encounters through art, visual media, and material culture. The mobile objects and images that mediate these distinct regions, histories, and customs offer us critical insights into the ways in which ordinary people construct spatial and cultural imaginaries of “China” and “Africa” in popular discourse.

This one-day workshop invites cross-disciplinary scholars and art practitioners to examine the visual worlds and material cultures that mediate representations of “China” and “Africa” through encounters among the overseas Chinese in Africa, as well as by African migrants in China. Specifically, this roundtable uses commodity aesthetics, photographic images, and art objects in order to analyze the post-colonial dynamics of power, cultural “frictions” or misunderstandings, and gendered intimacies that are produced through these trans-cultural exchanges. Our event discusses the following questions, though they are not exhaustive of this topic of inquiry: How do mobilities of art, craft, fashion, and film bridge China/ Africa relations? In turn, how do the moving objects of art, craft, industry, and fashion across national and continental boundaries re-conceptualize our interlocutors’ understandings of “China” and “Africa” as they engage in transnational exchange?


Nellie Chu, CETREN Postdoctoral Researcher.

Manon Diederich, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Cologne.

Christian Hanussek, Artist, writer and curator based in Berlin.

Gerda Heck, CETREN Postdoctoral Researcher.

Michaela Pelican, Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Cologne.

Yu Qiu, Phd Candidate, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Xiaopeng Zhou, Berlin-based artist.


T: +49 551 39 21286
F: +49 551 39 21284


Georg-Universität-Universität Göttingen
Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14
37073 Göttingen