The Intimacies of Racial Capitalism: Chinese Capital and Migration In South Africa

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The Intimacies of Racial Capitalism: Chinese Capital and Migration In South Africa

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In light of the People’s Republic of China’s reemergence on the African continent since 2000, my dissertation, The Intimacies of Racial Capitalism: Chinese Migration and Capital in South Africa, explores the social, cultural, political, and economic dimensions of contemporary Chinese migration and capital in South Africa from an interdisciplinary approach grounded in feminist and critical race studies. Based on the analysis of media and cultural texts, in-depth interviews, and extensive participant-observation fieldwork primarily sited at a “China Mall,” a wholesale shopping center for Chinese goods, and Chinatown in Johannesburg, my dissertation theorizes the “south-south” dynamics of the “Rise of China.” It argues that Chinese capital in South Africa is an emergent form of 21st century racial capitalism and empire that functions through neoliberal modes of flexibility, mobility, and risk-taking and the production of racial difference. My dissertation tells a novel story about aspiring Chinese entrepreneurs who chase economic ambitions unattainable to them in neoliberalizing China in the emerging markets for low-cost Chinese goods in South Africa and across Africa and Latin America, while reproducing the enduring social inequalities and power relations foundational to South Africa’s history of racial capitalism and colonialism. The dissertation chronicles not only transnational Chinese livelihoods in South Africa, but also the fraught intimate and non-intimate encounters between Chinese and Africans, and the experiences of precarious Southern Africans migrant workers at the mall. It emphasizes the multiplicity of economic forms, affective economies, socialities, and historical contingencies. A feminist ethnography of racial capitalism, it tracks practices of capital accumulation, transnational capital flows, and labor relations alongside the production of racial, gender, and sexual difference necessary for the maximization of profit. The Intimacies of Racial Capitalism theorizes contemporary processes of racialization and neoliberal global capitalism across seldom examined yet increasingly important south-south geographies, while engaging racial capitalism scholarship with often elided analysis of gender and sexuality.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2018. Major: American Studies. Advisors: Jigna Desai, Karen Ho. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 359 pages.

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Huang, Mingwei. (2018). The Intimacies of Racial Capitalism: Chinese Capital and Migration In South Africa. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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