African Studies Seminar: Laughing about Corruption in Chinese-Ethiopian Encounters

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Conveners: Andrea Purdeková and Miles Larmer

Speaker: Miriam Driessen (Oxford)

My paper sheds light on comic narratives of corruption as a form of cultural critique. I ask the question why corruption stories in the context of Chinese-Ethiopian encounters are often infused with humour. While corruption narratives demarcate the boundaries of morality, humour appeases potential harm caused by criticism directed at the other. Tales of corruption, in combination with wit, prove to be an apt medium for criticizing the other, and positioning him or her as morally inferior. By linking corruption with humour, this paper offers new ways to approach and analyze narratives of corruption, and explains the function of humour in processes of moral othering.


Miriam Driessen is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies and a Junior Research Fellow of Jesus College, University of Oxford. Her research looks at Chinese migration to Ethiopia and Chinese involvement in the Ethiopian construction industry, with a focus on labour relations, gender, and race.