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Legal Remedies for China’s Overseas Workers

The half-million Chinese citizens travelling overseas to work each year are often misled about the job, charged high recruitment fees, not paid wages, or injured on the jobsite. But what recourse do they have? An analysis of Chinese court decisions shows that workers, including those who use informal brokers, are sometimes able to receive unpaid wages or work injury compensation upon their return. However, practical obstacles like obtaining physical evidence or affording a lawyer still prevent many abused workers from obtaining justice.

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Encounter Ethnography and Making the ‘Made in Italy’ Brand: Chinese Migrant Experiences

Drawing on ethnographic research in Prato, Italy, a city known for its concentration of Chinese migrants working in the fast-fashion sector, this essay charts the contours of what encounters between ‘Made in Italy’ and ‘Made in China’ have produced. Grappling with the observation that place-based labels exist paradoxically in an intensely globalised world, it focuses on place-based histories to argue for a dynamic consciousness of place.

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Redefining ‘Labour’ Migration from a Sino-Japanese Perspective

Increasing numbers of students, workers, and tourists around the world are challenging how we define labour migration. In particular, Japan was an early adopter of policies that have blurred the lines between migration and other forms of human mobility. As the largest non-Japanese group living and working in Japan, the experiences of Chinese people represent an important part of how we understand international labour migration in East Asia today. This essay reflects on ethnographic research conducted with young Chinese in Tokyo.

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Building the New Macau: A Portrait of Chinese Construction Workers in Sihanoukville

Due to a massive and sudden influx of capital from China, much of which was invested in shadowy gambling operations, in just a few years Sihanoukville went from a dreamy, low-budget tourist destination on the Cambodian coast to Southeast Asia’s ‘new Macau’. When, in the summer of 2019, the Cambodian authorities banned online gambling, the local economy came tumbling down. As construction sites all over the city halted operation, workers, both Chinese and Cambodian, were hit particularly hard by the crisis. This essay looks into their plight.

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The Double-Tongued Dilemma: Translating Chinese Workers’ Relations in Mongolia

Despite the ostensible complementarity of the structural shortage of industrial labour in Mongolia and the excess thereof in China, Chinese workers have constituted a source of anxiety in post-socialist Mongolia. Drawing on fieldwork at a Chinese-owned fluorspar mine in Mongolia between 2018 and 2019, this essay sheds light on the tension between bilingual and monolingual Chinese workers in the Sino-Mongolian industrial sphere. While the monolinguals rely on the bilinguals to facilitate industrial production, they also regard the latter in a suspicious light.

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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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Africa Drifters

Increased mobility from China to Africa over the past two decades has given birth to the ‘Africa drifter’ ( 非漂 ). Employed and driven, yet restless and plagued by the lack of a sense of security, many Chinese who move to Africa for work, especially those attached to large-scale infrastructure projects, find themselves afloat—caught between remaining and returning. Why do Africa drifters wind up in this uncertain state? And how can we link this type of mobility to developments in China?

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Migration and the Globalisation of Chinese Capital

The globalisation of capital from the People’s Republic of China has been accompanied by a growing range of human flows. Since the late 1980s, small traders selling consumer goods, labour migrants working on state projects, and students have expanded to much of the world and been joined by expatriate managers and technicians, tourists and lifestyle migrants. These flows play different roles in the global geography of capital from China, carrying with them distinct modalities of labour relations that involve both Chinese and non-Chinese actors.

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Shamanism, Occult Murder, and Political Assassination in Siberia and Beyond

This essay examines the revival of shamanism in a Siberian city and analyses the political dimensions of rituals for reversing the effects of sorcery assault. Drawing on fieldwork exploring an epidemic of occult violence in Kyzyl, Tyva Republic, the essay identifies a new type of shamanic detective and entrepreneur, whose techniques of counter-cursing cut across the state’s operations of security and justice.

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Shared Visions: The Gift of The Eye

Organ transplantation as discussed in the occult economies literature is associated with illicit activities and uncanny circumstances, and is fuelled by socioeconomic disparity. Discussing corneal transplantation as depicted in the Hong Kong–Thai film The Eye, this essay reflects on the symbolic and affective aspects of gifting the organ that helps us to mediate the world and which is associated with personal identity. It argues that through the genre of horror, cultural meanings of corneal transplantation are heightened that include the notion of tethering individuals through premonitory visions. In its portrayal of corneal donation and reciprocity, The Eye offers a warning about predictive knowledge.

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