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Abstract

This dissertation investigates the educational encounter between Africa and China through an ethnographic analysis of African students’ engagement with Chinese Universities in Beijing, China. I focus on the relationship between ‘English’, ‘whiteness’, and ‘cosmopolitanism’ as a semiotic nexus mediating the interactions between African and Chinese actors: what I term ‘White Spacetime’. In doing so I depict how this relationship – between what appear to be familiar colonial tropes – becomes reconstituted in novel, but ultimately limiting ways in Sino-African encounters. As such, the dissertation affords an opportunity to re-approach the analytics of postcolonial translation from a context expected to have cathartically invoked “the Third World [starting over] a new history of man” (Fanon 1965: 238). The arguments I make throughout the course of the dissertation’s chapters address two primary concerns. The first is an analysis of how current Sino-African encounters contest or re-contextualize, perpetuate or fetishize the persistence of Anglocentrism, cosmopolitanism, and whiteness as historically imbricated manifestations of western domination (Pennycook 2007, Blommaert 2012, Mbembe & Nuttall 2007, Rofel 2007, Appadurai 2011, Gilroy 1993, Hage 2000, LaDousa 2014, Nakassis 2016). The second is a demonstration of the ways in which an ethnographic study of ‘encounters’ can restage the stakes of postcolonial translation by revealing the interactional emergence of its ideological concerns with power, historical stratification, and their relationship to discourse that have plagued various genealogies of postcolonial, deconstructionist, and critical race theorists (Lorde 2007, Crenshaw 1991, Butler 1999, Robinson 1983, Mbembe 2001, Fanon 1965 & 2008 [1952], Said 2003, Derrida 1976, Foucault 2002, hooks 1981, Spivak 1976, Bhabha 1994). Addressing both concerns, this dissertation grounds its methodological approach in the study of interactions – considered as dialectically contingent on, and constitutive of, the historical and material conditions of their contextualization. Framing my discussion within Fanonian and Peircean genealogies of postcolonial theory and pragmatist semiotics, this dissertation thus undertakes a critical semiotics of postcolonial translation.

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