Chinese Globalization and Collaborative Damage
Open lecture with Mikkel Bunkenborg
Mikkel Bunkenborg presents the book Collaborative Damage, 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.
BIO: Mikkel Bunkenborg is associate professor in China Studies at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen. Working at the intersection of China studies and anthropology, his research has focused on bodies and medicine, on politics and popular religion in rural North China, and on Chinese globalization as it unfolds through infrastructure construction, resource extraction, and trade in Mongolia and Mozambique. He is currently the primary investigator of a collaborative ethnographic project entitled Moral Economies of Food in Contemporary China.