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Window of the World: Sino–African Encounters through Copies and Simulations
New publication by Lesley Nicole Braun
Located in the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen is Window of the World: a Chinese theme park that features miniature copies of heritage sites from around the world. The individuals living within this constructed simulation are imported from diverse countries. They come to work as performers, animating the different cultural pavilions. As such, the transnationalism made possible by this park provides a window through which we can observe cultural interactivity, as well as the ways in which culture is constructed and re-presented. This article examines some of the processes of cultural encounters through copies of commodified cultural heritage. It also sheds light on the ways in which Kung Fu movies circulating in Africa have inspired the imaginations of young people, revealing cultural feedback loops that provide openings for new contact. Grounded in ethnographic research, the findings here are based on interviews with Kenyan and South African contract workers at this theme park. This article explores young people’s pursuits of new opportunities of identity-formation and self-representation, as well as economic stability and forward mobility.