Cheryl Schimtz conducted ethnographic fieldwork on Chinese business and labour relations in Angola from 2012 to 2014. Her publications on the topic have appeared in HAU, Journal of Asian and Pacific Migration, and American Anthropologist (forthcoming). She is currently based at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where she is tracing the development of African studies in China in the age of expansion along the Belt and Road Initiative, as part of the Lise Meitner Research Group ‘China in the Global System of Science’.

Doing Time, Making Money at a Chinese State Firm in Angola

Popular accounts of the expansion of Chinese capital in Africa have presented it as a rapid and exciting process of furious movement and violent transformation. By contrast, fieldwork conducted among employees of a Chinese state-owned construction firm in Luanda, Angola, in 2013–14 reveals repetitive rhythms of monotony and boredom. This essay explores how Chinese migrant workers in Angola experienced their time abroad as work without life, despite spending much of their time every day engaged in non-productive activities. Justifying their deferment of ‘life’ with dreams of what their money would eventually buy in China, and attempting to contrast their own ‘hard work’ against an image of idle Africans or Americans, the Chinese men the author met in Angola were ultimately pretty bored.

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