chapter  9
14 Pages

Chinese peanuts and Chinese machinga

145The use and abuse of a rumour in Dar es Salaam (and ethnographic writing)
WithDerek Sheridan

This chapter uses the rumour of a Chinese peanut seller and the related figure of the “Chinese machinga” in Tanzania to examine how claims about the China–Africa relationship are produced, validated, contested, and circulated in the context of differing political economies of epistemological value. In doing so, it flattens the conceptual distinction between vernacular and expert forms of knowledge production by showing traffic, in the form of casual hyperbole, between them. It approaches these forms of myth and hyperbole in a different way than approaches that aim to uncover a “real story,” or to critique the “real motives,” behind them. Instead, it traces how myths and hyperbole work in rather quotidian ways in ordinary discourse. Such an ethnographic perspective provides an alternative to the study of Africa–China knowledge production than either “myths” or “real stories.”