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Justin Haruyama


  • PhD Candidate in Anthropology (Socio-cultural), Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory
  • Dissertation title: "Mining for Coal and Souls: Modes of Relationality in Emerging Chinese-Zambian Worlds"
  • MA in Anthropology, University of California, Davis
  • BA, Philosophy and Global Development Studies, with Honors, University of Puget Sound


I am an ABD, post-field doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of California, Davis, with designated emphases in African Studies and Critical Theory. My dissertation examines the controversial presence of Chinese migrants and investors in Zambia today. I explore the diverse forms of relationality enabled by these encounters, ranging from intimacy and fellowship, to exclusion, to mutual dependence and obligation. Drawing upon twenty-eight months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Zambia and China, my project examines these relations as they manifest in two different domains. The first domain is that of religion, through a Jehovah’s Witness congregation that, though overwhelmingly composed of local Zambian congregants, nevertheless conducts its meetings entirely in Mandarin Chinese in order to better evangelize to Chinese expatriates. The second domain is that of labor, through a Chinese-operated coal mine in Zambia which has engendered not only violence but also new linguistic and familial formations that put the very categories of “Zambian” and “Chinese” into variation. Taking issue with simplistic narratives that have too frequently painted Chinese companies and individuals in Africa as either neocolonial exploiters or South-South, "win-win" development partners, I bring these two domains together to demonstrate that concrete encounters between Chinese and Zambians are far more ambivalent and open-ended than is often portrayed by contemporary rhetoric about “China in Africa.”

Supervisors: James H. Smith, Donald L. Donham, James Ferguson, Smriti Srinivas, and Li Zhang

Research Focus

China-Africa Relations, Mining, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Contact Languages, Capitalism from the South, Modes of Relationality, Non-Secular History, Postcolonial Theory, Indian Ocean Worlds, China, Zambia

Selected Publications

In Preparation. History Written in Advance: Christian Prophecy, Chinese-Zambian Relations, and Diffracted Modernity. Planned submission to Religion and Society.

Under Review. African Critiques of Liberalism: Christianity, the Curse of Ham, and Hierarchy in and Beyond Zambia. Cultural Anthropology.

Under Review. (Revise and Resubmit Received.) Shortcut English: A Pidgin Language and “Racialization” at a Chinese-Operated Mine in Zambia. African Studies Review.

Forthcoming. Beyond “Conspiracy Theories”: COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy as a Failure of Biomedicine’s Moral Legitimacy in Africa. In Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories. Peter Knight and Michael Butter, Eds. New York, NY: Routledge. (Editor Invited)

"Op-ed: Is ‘Shang-Chi,’ now the pandemic era’s biggest film hit, merely stereotyped cliches?." Chicago Tribune, October 19, 2021.


“‘The Truth Is Not Known’: COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy as a Failure of Biomedicine’s Moral Legitimacy in Zambia.” Somatosphere. August 20, 2021.


“Going Viral in Hong Kong.” Anthropology News, March. With Laura Meek and Ria Sinha. March 3, 2020.


“Don’t Blame Hong Kong Protesters or Police: Carrie Lam and Her Team Brought about This Crisis.” South China Morning Post, November 21, 2019. Under pseudonym John Hu. With Laura Meek.


"Spinoza and the Axiomatic Method." Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics at Puget Sound, May, 2009.


At UC Davis:

Instructor- ANT 139AN- Race, Class, Gender

Instructor- ANT 2- Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

TA- ANT 126A- Anthropology of Development

Reader- ANT 124- Religion in Society & Culture

At Hexi University, China:

Instructor- Theories and Techniques of Literature Study

Instructor- Introduction to Comparative Literature


Chinese Modernity and Soft Power on the Belt and Road Postdoctoral Fellowship, Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Hong Kong (2022-24)

Three-Minute Thesis Competition 2nd Runner-Up, American Anthropological Association (2021)

Graduate Student Paper Prize, African Studies Association (2021)

UC Davis Provost Dissertation Year Fellowship  (2021)

UC Irvine Global Scholars Early Career Fellowship  (2020)

Graduate Student Paper Prize Citation, Society for East Asian Anthropology  (2020)

Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award, Association for Africanist Anthropology  (2020)

Indian Ocean Worlds Mellon Research Initiative Dissertation Writing Grant  (2019-20)

The Op-Ed Project “Write to Change the World” Fellowship, American Anthropological Association (2019)

Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant  (2018-19)

National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant  (2018-19)

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship  (2017-18)

Indian Ocean Worlds Mellon Research Initiative Dissertation Fieldwork Grant  (2017-18)

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program  (2016-20)

Second Place, Student Paper Competition, Southwest Anthropological Association  (2017)

UC Davis Graduate Research Mentorship Fellowship (declined)  (2016-17)

Indian Ocean Worlds Conference Grant, Mellon Research Initiative, UC Davis  (2016 & 2019)

Indian Ocean Worlds Summer Travel Grant, Mellon Research Initiative  (2015, 2016, & 2017)

UC Davis Anthropology Graduate Fellowship- Summer Research Award  (2015 & 2016)

Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, University of California  (2014-16)