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LRCCS Noon Lecture Series | Futures in the Past of Africa-China Engagement

Jamie Monson, Professor of History, Director of the African Studies Center, Michigan State University
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
This talk will challenge the presentist time frame of much current scholarship on China and Africa. Popular discourse as well as scholarly research in this field has been reactive to the expansion of China’s economic and policy interests in Africa since 2006. This brings with it a dismissal or erasure of earlier periods of China-Africa engagement, that are deemed less significant when measured against the scale and speed of today’s relationships. As a historian, Professor Monson wishes to challenge this assumption as a backward projection of metrics that can underestimate, in hindsight, the historicity of China and Africa on their own terms. So that, for example, a tiny Chinese-built shoe factory on Zanzibar, or a small-scale irrigated rice farm in the Gambia, could have an amplified role and meaning in its own time. The Chinese role model offered an alternative imagining for an African future, one that whether embraced or rejected made a difference on the global stage. Africa and Africans made a difference domestically for China, too, through a range of solidarities expressed through literature, drama, film and in person as delegations of youth, women, athletes and journalists traveled abroad.

Jamie Monson is Director of the African Studies Center and Professor of History at Michigan State University. Her background is deeply rooted in East African environmental history and the relationship between development, resource use and landscape change in Africa. A recognized researcher and scholar, Professor Monson's efforts have established her as a pioneer in China-Africa development studies. Her book, "Africa’s Freedom Railway: How a Chinese Development Project Changed Lives and Livelihoods in Tanzania," explores the TAZARA railway, which was built with Chinese development aid. Her most recent project is a book and documentary film based on life histories of TAZARA railway workers in Tanzania, Zambia and China. Monson teaches courses on African environmental history, history of science and technology in Africa, and has led workshops on ethics of community engagement.

Co-sponsored by the African Studies Center, University of Michigan.

If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to us at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange. Email us at
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Africa, Asia, Chinese Studies
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, International Institute, African Studies Center, Asian Languages and Cultures