The Social Construction of Guangzhou as a Translocal Trading Place

Angelo Gilles


Guangzhou has become a key destination for sub-Saharan African traders. These traders have established multilocal forms of business organisation and, in so doing, have developed diverse practices to overcome geographical, political and cultural boundaries. This paper focuses on these practices, looking at the ways in which the movements, relations and interactions within these organisational formations are produced, transformed and lived. A close ethnographic examination was made of the livelihoods of 33 African traders from 13 sub-Saharan African countries. Through the concept of trans-locality, the organisational formations of these Africans are conceptualised as links between different places on a larger geographical scale; these links then meet on a local scale in the specific place of Guangzhou. Following a relational understanding of spatial constructions in social science, these links are conceptualised as one of the main drivers for the social construction and transformation of the city as a trans-local trading place.

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