Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, New York University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, New York University (NYU)
Chinese Dreams in the Silicon Savannah: An Ethnography of Chinese Millennials in Nairobi, Kenya

Are everyday practices in physical and digital spaces allowing Chinese transnational elites and Kenyan citizens to reshape existing social visions and cultural configurations of one another? This question guides my dissertation research project, which explores the subjectivities and multiple sites of mediation driving the unique formation of relationships between members of a generation known as Chinese millennials and Kenyan development professionals. Chinese millennial travel to Nairobi exists alongside wider geopolitical relations occurring between China and the African continent, and within broader flows of Chinese capital and labor into Kenya over the past thirty years, yet differs in significant ways. Preliminary research suggests that millennials' aims in Kenya exceed economic pursuits, raising questions for how scholars theorize China's presence on the African continent. Consonant with their own views, Chinese millennials are more linguistically and digitally competent than the Chinese generations that have preceded them in Nairobi, and can therefore penetrate Kenyan social worlds with greater ease and fluidity. Tracking these differences, my project investigates how new contact zones, particularly volunteer organizations and digital platforms, are creating unprecedented opportunities for negotiation, interaction, and the shaping of imaginaries between China's young transnational elites and Kenyan citizens. Over a twelve-month period, I propose to conduct multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in key sites throughout Nairobi, Kenya and Shanghai, China that serve as sending and receiving institutions for Chinese millennials who conduct development work. Social media platforms comprise a third fieldsite, serving as a robust area for my exploration into how social relations and imaginaries between Chinese and Kenyan actors are produced and circulated.