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Centre of African Studies: Events


Sex and the Transnational City

Sex and the Transnational City: Chinese sex workers in a West African city
Speaker: Basile Ndjio # Department of Geography, University College London
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Date and Time
30th Jan 2013 16:00 - 30th Jan 2013 18:00
Ground Floor, seminar room 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building


Making use of theoretical approach and empirical methodology, the present work seeks to investigate Chinese transnational sex labour in the city of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, which is increasingly becoming not only a space of pronounced environmental mutations, but also a site of trans-territorial connections of social and economic practices.

On the one hand, the paper tries to answer to the question of how do both female Chinese sex labour migrants and transnational Chinese criminal syndicates that organize the trafficking of young Chinese women for sex work in the city of Douala manage to forge in this African urban space translocal networks of prostitution that stretch between China and Cameroon? What crucial role have these various transnational sex entrepreneurs played not only in the reconfiguration of the local geography of commercialized sex, but also in the slow transformation of Douala into a tropical Macau of oriental sex where Asian bodies can be bargained for? In line with these concerns, the study proposes to provide critical data on the complex networks through which Chinese prostitution operates in the city of Douala, and the strategies developed by various actors in order to advance in their business.

On the other hand, the paper aspires to provide an account of the local reactions and resistance to the inflow of commoditized Chinese bodies into the city of Douala and the increasing expansion of Chinese erotica in this African urban space. Preliminary findings suggest that many disgruntled local sex workers dealt with the competition by portraying their Chinese counterparts as economic predators, and as dangerous witches who used occult powers to thrive in their business.