Mikkel Bunkenborg et al., “Collaborative Damage: An Experimental Ethnography of Chinese Globalization” (Cornell UP, 2022)

Collaborative Damage: An Experimental Ethnography of Chinese Globalization (Cornell UP, 2022) is an experimental ethnography of Chinese globalization that compares data from two frontlines of China’s global intervention—sub-Saharan Africa and Inner/Central Asia. Based on their fieldwork on Chinese infrastructure and resource-extraction projects in Mozambique and Mongolia, Mikkel Bunkenborg, Morten Nielsen, and Morten Axel Pedersen provide new empirical insights into neocolonialism and Sinophobia in the Global South.

The core argument in Collaborative Damage is that the different participants studied in the globalization processes—local workers and cadres; Chinese managers and entrepreneurs; and the authors themselves, three Danish anthropologists—are intimately linked in paradoxical partnerships of mutual incomprehension. The authors call this “collaborative damage,” which crucially refers not only to the misunderstandings and conflicts they observed in the field, but also to their own failure to agree about how to interpret the data. Via in-depth case studies and tragicomical tales of friendship, antagonism, irresolvable differences, and carefully maintained indifferences across disparate Sino-local worlds in Africa and Asia, Collaborative Damage tells a wide-ranging story of Chinese globalization in the twenty-first century.

Adam Bobeck is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. His PhD is entitled “Object-Oriented Azadari: Shi’i Muslim Rituals and Ontology”. For more about his work, see www.adambobeck.com.

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