History Written in Advance
History Written in Advance: Christian Prophecy, Chinese-Zambian Relations, and Diffracted Modernity
Speaker: Justin Haruyama, University of California, Davis
Over the last decade, Mandarin-language Jehovah’s Witness congregations have proliferated across Zambia. These congregations are almost exclusively composed of local Zambians who have learned Mandarin as a second language, but count few to no ethnic Chinese congregants. Though they find little success in converting Chinese people, these Witnesses transgress common Zambian social norms by befriending Chinese migrants, eating Chinese food, and expressing appreciation for Chinese culture. Explaining their actions, Witnesses invoke and elide history in ways that erase national and racialized differences between themselves and Chinese migrants. They instead act upon a temporal horizon in which Biblical truths must be quickly spread before the rapidly approaching dissolution of the current system of things. In doing so, they enact a diffracted modernity that appropriates modernity's totalizing tropes while challenging the secular liberalism of the nation-state, as they anticipate the world entering its final years before Jehovah God vanquishes all human-governed polities.
About the speaker:
Justin Haruyama is a PhD candidate in cultural anthropology at University of California, Davis. His research examines the controversial presence of Chinese migrants in Africa today, with a focus on social interactions between Chinese expatriate and local Zambian communities as they come to interact in contexts of work and religion in southern Zambia.