Meet Ding Fei, a new senior research associate and lecturer in the Department of Global Development. As a development and economic geographer with a regional focus in East Asia and Africa, Fei studies the political economy of development, global production networks, capital-labor relations and South-South migration. Within that scope, her research seeks to understand the structures, processes, agencies and relationalities that shape Chinese overseas investment. As an educator, Fei’s goal is to help students become proactive, independent, critical and lifelong learners who can develop their own distinctive perspectives and communicate their opinions clearly to others.
What research projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I am pursuing three lines of work. The first project examines Chinese overseas companies’ local embeddedness and community engagement in Africa, with focuses on inter-firm relations, entrepreneurial processes, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The second project investigates the globalization of Chinese subnational modalities of infrastructure development and their implications for urban-industrial transformations in different African contexts. The third project explores transnational (im)mobility, work-life balance, and labor dispute resolution for Chinese migrant workers in Africa. In the future, I would also like to explore the health, energy and technology dimensions of Afro-Asian linkages.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
When I’m not working, I love to spend time with my family, especially exploring new places — parks, trails, museums, or restaurants. When I’m just by myself, I like to read Chinese fiction or watch TV drama series.
If you weren’t in academia, what other career could you imagine yourself in?
I came across a book called The Life of China’s Peasants during college and was amazed by its in-depth research and reporting of rural livelihoods and peasants struggles in Chinese villages. After reading the book, I thought about becoming an investigative journalist to cover the often-untold stories of people and places under rapid economic transformation.
What does global development mean to you?
To me, global development means understanding and addressing the unevenness in economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing among regions, countries, communities and social groups. This field provides pathways for working collaboratively and innovatively across places and spaces to promote equality and wellbeing for people and our planet.
What is your favorite part about teaching?
My favorite part about teaching is to introduce different perspectives and analytical tools to students and see them using these skills to understand and solve real-world issues around them.
If you had unlimited grant funding, how would you advance your research?
I would like to design and carry out multi-sited, long-term, and comparative studies to trace the dynamic learning process, community responses and people-to-people interactions surrounding Chinese development projects in Africa. Through these studies, I also hope to create venues for African students and junior scholars to conduct research and develop collaborative projects.
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