Cheryl Mei-ting Schmitz

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Grant number

Gr. 10184

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Schmitz, Cheryl (Max Planck Inst. for the History of Science) "Suspicious Transactions: Translating Chinese Business in Postwar Angola"

CHERYL MEI-TING SCHMITZ, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2021 to aid research on ‘Suspicious Transactions: Translating Chinese Business in Postwar Angola.’ As the People’s Republic of China has transitioned from a ‘rising’ to a ‘global’ power, its activities on the African continent have attracted critical attention. Situated in Angola, the site of some of the most controversial deals between China and an African state, this book offers an ethnographic account of how Chinese-African interactions are experienced at the level of everyday life. The analysis focuses on the activities of a Chinese construction firm with whom the author lived and worked as a volunteer translator from 2013 to 2014. Examining commercial exchanges, labor and managerial practices, and the pursuit of business partnerships, the ethnography explores how knowledge and value are brokered through the negotiation of transactional alliances heavily colored by geopolitical rivalries. Acknowledging the mutual imbrication of observer and observed, the narrative traces how translations and mistranslations took place through and alongside economic transactions in which values emerged. Thus, gaps in knowledge, acts of deception, and sentiments of betrayal appear to be constitutive not only of Chinese globalization in Angola but also of the anthropological enterprise itself.