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AP Forum: Student Presentations, November 17


Jing Hao Liong, Yaming You, Yidi Zheng

At this final AP Forum of 2023, the following students will share information about the research they conducted during the summer with support from APSI:

Person wearing a yellow shirt and glasses seated at a table with a spoon poised over food
Jing Hao Liong—Professionalism and Contracts: Preliminary Reflections on Ethical Recruitment in Malaysia’s Migrant Domestic Work Sector

In households across Malaysia, migrant domestic workers find themselves working under conditions of forced labor. A report published in June 2023 by the International Labour Organization found that nearly a third of migrant domestic workers in Malaysia work under forced labor conditions that include excessive working hours, the illegal retention of identity documents, and restrictions on their movements. To address this issue, labor recruitment agents have begun to implement ethical recruitment principles in an effort to help Malaysian employers hire and employ migrant domestic workers “fairly” and “responsibly.” Drawing from two months of fieldwork in one such “ethical”recruitment agency in Kuala Lumpur, this presentation explores the practices, negotiations, and experimentations in using market driven solutions to address forced labor. Specifically, I offer some preliminary reflections on the everyday labors and racialized fantasies that undergird the “professionalization” of migrant domestic work, as well as the paradoxical nature of the employment contract as a technology of labor protection and discipline.

A person with long hair wearing glasses, a blue shirt, and a green sweater, posing for the photo in front of a mural wall with a Chinese building in the background
Yaming You—Traditional Chinese Medicine injection from the 1940s to the 1970s

This talk looks at the development of Traditional Chinese Medicine injection (TCMI) from the 1940s to the 1970s. In the 1940s during the Second World War, the scarcity of Western medicine prompted a number of Chinese physicians to transform traditional Chinese medicine into injectable drugs. Throughout its centuries of history, Chinese medicine took the form of decoction, pills, powders, ointments and pellets – but never injection. The 1940s invention of injectable traditional Chinese medicine was thus a revolutionary development in the Chinese medical landscape. In 1958, Chairman Mao opined that “Chinese pharmacology is an enormous treasure trove worthy of further investigation and improvement.” Following this call, the Communist state made it both a political and a scientific mission to modernize traditional Chinese medicine, a process which included making Chinese medicine into injectants and tablets. The 1960s and 1970s saw an explosive growth of Traditional Chinese Medicine injection. I argue that these developments between the 1940s and 1970s represent a materialization of a synthesis between two radically distinct epistemologies of the medical body. Moving beyond a narrative/dialectical study and into the physical, material lies at the heart of this project.

Black and white photo of a person with mid-length hair wearing a light sweater
Yidi Zheng—Porous Space and Ethics of Reverse Extraction: Trading from an Office Cube in Guangzhou

In the heart of the “African Enclave” in Guangzhou, Zulu’s office is quartered by one concrete wall and three frosted glass panels. One of glass panels separated Zulu, the founder of a transnational trading enterprise with business ventures across Africa, from me, a summer intern and fieldworker with a newly acquired IRB. Guangzhou is one of the international trading capitals of South China, hosting the largest population of transient African traders in the country. Familiar to anyone working in foreign trade around the city, the office buildings of African traders, however, remain obscure in most descriptions and analytics of African tradescape in China. My presentation starts from the office cube: a modern, sleek, and legal trading place saturated with green, white, and blue—the national color of Sierra Leone and the color Zulu Group. Examining the branded commodities and office paraphernalia in the cube, I explore the implications of branding in a city famous for its sizeable low-end counterfeits economy. We cannot understand a place, Doreen Massey suggests, “without setting it in the context of its relations with the world beyond” (Christophers et al. 2018). The second part thus follows the footsteps of African traders and Chinese logistic workers, analyzing the porosity (and the directionality of the porosity) of the office cube in connection with other spaces (e.g., African marketplaces, warehouses, post-COVID surveillance space). In the end, I flip the question central to generations of anthropologists, that is, the ethics of ethnographic extraction and reflect on my experience of reverse extraction in the field.