Accepted Paper:

Co-dependent catering networks: African Muslim traders in Guangzhou, China  


Qiuyu Jiang (McGill)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents the emergence of a co-dependent "catering network" among African traders, local Cantonese, and Chinese internal ethnic migrants, allowing the development of an “African zone” in Guangzhou which, in turn, enhances African cultural impacts and African individual's attachment to the city.

Paper long abstract:

As one of the earliest Chinese cities to be introduced to Islam, Guangzhou has been one of the religious centers for both Chinese and international Muslims for hundreds of years. The historic presence of Islam, as well as an extensive trading economy has drawn many international Muslim traders, including those from Africa, to live and work in Guangzhou. My ethnographic inquiry focuses on how sub-Saharan African traders living in Xiaobei, Guangzhou make space while adapting to living in China. These African traders are engaged in brokering both economically and socially with other members from the greater Muslim communities, including Chinese Muslims (both local Cantonese and internal migrants), Middle Eastern Muslims and Muslims from North African countries, where Muslim identity transcends ethnic and national differences through daily interactions. I posit that Africans migrants build their religious social networks through shared "global Muslimhood". This paper illustrates how the "African community" becomes an umbrella term to describe different African individuals. African material culture has slowly been accepted by local Chinese and has added a unique layer to Guangzhou's multi-ethnicity. Meanwhile, the large and vivid presence of African group in Guangzhou and their interactions with local and Chinese internal migrants with diverse ethnicity, have resulted in the emergence of multiethnic "catering networks" (networks of support) that allow the development of an "African zone" in Guangzhou. These African zones, in turn, enhance African cultural influences as well as their personal attachment with Guangzhou.

Panel WIM-CHAT02
Ethnic business, urban development and cultural preservation