Searching for Sweetness

Women’s Mobile Lives in China and Lesotho


Sarah Hanisch

ISBN : 978-988-8754-01-4

Anthropology and Gender Studies Crossing Seas

March 2022

196 pages, 6″ x 9″, 2 figs.; 3 b&w illus. and 3 maps

  • HK$500.00

Traversing from the rapidly urbanising county-level city of Fuqing to the remote mountainous kingdom of Lesotho in Southern Africa, Searching for Sweetness is one of the first and most extensive ethnographies linking rural-to-urban migration in China with Chinese migration to Africa. Against the backdrop of China’s national struggle for modernity and globalisation, Sarah Hanisch examines Chinese migrant women’s complex and ever-shifting struggles for upward social mobility across different generations and localities in China and Lesotho. Embedding the women’s individual portraits into larger historical contexts, Hanisch illustrates how these women interpret and narrate their migratory and everyday experiences through and beyond powerful state metanarratives on ‘sweetness’ and ‘bitterness’. In her exploration of migratory identities and projects that have been overlooked by previous studies, Hanisch brings uniquely gendered, multi-sited, and intergenerational perspectives to existing scholarship on Chinese internal and international migration.

Sarah Hanisch holds a PhD in Chinese studies and an MA in global studies. She has conducted field research in China, Lesotho, South Africa, and Tanzania.

‘This book is an important effort to connect Chinese migration to Africa to developments taking place in China. Hanisch also explores various drivers of present-day gendered migration and ongoing changes in the state’s metanarratives surrounding development, modernity, and bitterness/sweetness. The deeply trusting relationships she was able to establish with her interlocutors make this book especially unique and valuable.’ —Yoon Jung Park, Georgetown University

‘This book tells us about Chinese migration to Africa beyond the state-centred narratives we usually read in journalistic and academic accounts. As a multi-sited ethnography, it provides insights into the struggle of ten women: between hope and desperation, between success and defeat. Searching for Sweetness is what drives these women and makes them tell their stories beyond and in constant dialogue with the state-designed master-narratives. This is a must-read for anyone who wishes to confront the complexity of today’s globalised world.’ —Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, University of Vienna