Chinese Employers and Their Ugandan Workers: Tensions, Frictions and Cooperation in an African City

Codrin Arsene

Abstract


This paper analyses the context in which a group of African workers interact with their Chinese employers within a specific ethno- graphic space: Chinese-owned shops in Kampala, Uganda. By exploring enjawulo, the locally embedded cultural, social and economic notion of work and labour, I reveal how relations between Chinese employers and Ugandan employees are shaped by the former’s knowledge and acceptance of this practice. This analytical lens contextualises the two groups’ divergent goals, opinions and aspirations, examines the interpersonal dimensions of their social relations, and also analyses employers’ and employees’ opinions on labour conflicts, cooperation and understanding. The goal of the paper is to explore and deconstruct the context in which Chinese store owners and their local employees interact, cohabit, and sometimes even find common ground, despite markedly different economic, social, cultural, racial and linguistic backgrounds.

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