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ABOUT CHINA AFRICA
FASHION POWER
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Photography by Paul Cox.

The project investigates how, in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global power is manifested, negotiated, and resisted in people’s daily life in a South-South setting using fashion as an exemplary case. Fashion is recognised as a significant economic force globally and one of the most poignant indicators of cross-cultural exchange. By critically examining China-Africa networks of fashion production, trade and consumption, this project will theorise how fashion is created, circulated, valuated, and consumed in and through Global Souths Value Chains (Guangdong-Nairobi-Maputo), dissecting complex dynamics and expressions of power.

 

Using a multi-disciplinary, multi-method, multi-sited, and multi-scalar approach, the following questions frame this project and its four subprojects: 1) How are everyday fashion products designed and produced in China for African markets; 2) How do Chinese and Africans interact to valuate and trade fashion products for Kenyan and Mozambican markets; 3) How and by whom are cultural differences negotiated and mediated in the marketplace; and 4) What values, meanings and “power” do African consumers derive from consumption, and what ideas and constraints are imposed on them?

 

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Photography by Paul Cox.

This project’s major contribution is threefold. Theoretically, it will move beyond a Western-centric epistemology to map the chains, restraints and materialities of China’s power expansion through fashion. Methodologically, this project will synergistically collect and triangulate empirical information along complete South-South commodity chains through multi-sited ethnography, semiotic and visual analysis, individual and focus group interviews, and wardrobe archival studies. Empirically, it will provide evidence of how Chinese-African fashion industries impact upon the social, cultural, economic and affective lives of African consumers in the context of increasing globalisation, digitalisation, consumerism, and China’s ambition abroad.

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