Chinese Devils, the Global Market, and the Declining Power of Togo's Commodity Queens

Culture, Power, and Social Change (CPSC) presents a lecture by Dr. Nina Sylvanus discussing the fabric market in West Africa and the impact of China on the trade.

Thursday, June 07, 2007
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Room 352
Haines Hall
UCLA campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Nina Sylvanus is a Global Fellow at UCLA’s International Institute where she is working on a book project based on her dissertation, entitled "The Fabric of Globality: West African Women in the World Commodity Trade." She received her Ph.D in Anthropology from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris in 2006.


Through the lens of changing moral economies and shifting local-global articulations, this paper will analyze the most recent phase in the long-standing and shifting global trade of printed “African” fabrics, produced in Europe for export markets in West Africa, and most recently reproduced in China. The center stage of my analysis is Lomé’s Grand-Marché, West Africa’s former regional pole of textile distribution. Examining the market’s current tensions and shifting power relations provides compelling ethnographic insight into the complexity of local-global articulations. Formerly powerful women traders articulate anxieties surrounding the transformed market for globally produced ‘African’ fabrics. The organizational shifts in the market appear to these women as a moral conundrum. While considering China as the new giant of the global economy, they simultaneously accuse the Chinese ‘devil’ to have brought globalization, ‘immoral’ free-trade dynamics and defective commodities to Togo, which are held responsible for the unsettling of long-standing values and trade hierarchies. This paper seeks to explore these sets of tensions by considering two interrelated processes: the change/distortion in value hierarchies expressed with the appearance of “fake” fabrics and the change in trade hierarchies with the decline of Togo’s commodity queens.

For more information about CPSC, including the schedule of speakers, please visit the course website:


Special Instructions

Refreshments will be served.

Cost : Free and open to the public; parking is available for $8.

For more information please contact:

Professor Kyeyoung Park Tel: 310-206-3363

Sponsor(s): , Anthropology, Culture, Power, and Social Change (CPSC) class. Information on non-ASC events is posted for informational purposes and does not necessarily reflect opinions of or endorsements by African Studies personnel.