All posts by Cai Chen

[Publication] Scientific blog article: WeChat and the Chinese Queer Diaspora

Chen, C. (2024). WeChat and the Chinese Queer DiasporaBlog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève, 12 February 2024.

As a part of the article:

Bugnon, P. & Chen, Y. WeChat Ethnography: New Practices and Limits of an Emerging Research Method. Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève, 12 February 2024.

In the ethnographic study of Cai Chen about the interrelationship between migration and sexuality amongst Chinese gay students in France, he finds out that WeChat enables Chinese queer diaspora to construct an Internet-based community across borders, embed transnational identity beyond geographic distance and express queerness in online and offline worlds. He also presents some methodological reflections on benefits and challenges of using WeChat as a digital tool to research Chinese queer diaspora. He argues that researchers should constantly navigate between physical and virtual social worlds to critically account for the ongoing, increasingly digitally mediated, social interactions and practices amongst the Chinese queer diaspora.

[Event] BelMix Seminar Series-2024(I): 1

“Marital Diversity in India: Cross-Region and Cross-Border Marriages, Family and Kinship Transformations, and Gender Dynamics”

Marriage across India’s Internal Borders: Women’s Cross-Regional Union Treks from East to North

by Ankit (PhD researcher, Institute of Sociology, University of Wroclaw, Poland)

“Fitting In”: Social Cohesion among Skilled Migrant Indian Women and Host Diasporic Communities in South Africa

by Pragna Rugunanan (Professor & Vice Dean of Research in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, South Africa)

Date: Monday 12 February 2024, 11am – 1pm (Brussels Time).

Venue: Room S.15.215 (Building S, 15th floor)

Campus Solbosch, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

Avenue Jeanne 44, Bruxelles 1050.

AND also live streamed online via Zoom.


Marriage across India’s Internal Borders: Women’s Cross-Regional Union Treks from East to North

This presentation examines the experiences of women who migrate from Eastern states to marry into families in rural Haryana, North India. Through an analysis of existing sociological research combined with findings from my own doctoral fieldwork, I explore the motivations, processes, and outcomes shaping these marital treks which traverse India’s internal state borders. Scholars have long documented how the skew in India’s gender ratio fuels the migration of women for marriage from areas with relatively balanced sex ratios to those imbalanced regions with deficits of potential brides. This imbalance combined with cultural notions of village exogamy and caste endogamy provides impetus for men in Haryana and elsewhere in North India to seek wives from East and Northeast India. Though motivations vary, women often migrate seeking enhanced socioeconomic status and life opportunities apart from the agency to choose their marital home. Nevertheless, they must navigate complex power relations, structural inequalities, and cultural differences once embedded within their new familial and regional contexts after marriage. I try to see similarities between the east Asian cross-border marriages with these cross-regional marriages in rural India as well.

My fieldwork consists of in-depth interviews with emerging adult children born to women who have migrated from Odisha, West Bengal, and other Eastern states to marry into families across rural Haryana. I also interview mothers and local stakeholders such as village heads (sarpanches) to investigate the processes shaping children’s development and identity formation in these cross-regional families. Preliminary findings reveal complex identity negotiations for these children as they come of age, seeking to balance the cultural values of both their maternal and local backgrounds. The linguistic, religious, or caste differences distinguishing their mothers often mark these children as outsiders within their Haryanvi peer contexts, complicating their social integration and status.

(See short documentary “Bittoo: searching for self in a cross-regional family” and reference:

“Fitting In”: Social Cohesion among Skilled Migrant Indian Women and Host Diasporic Communities in South Africa

Migration has traditionally been seen as a primarily male domain, particularly in developing countries. However, global practices have increased the visibility of women migrants such that the feminisation and irregularisation of migration has led to new flows of transnational migrant movements, particularly to South Africa. Attention is drawn to the growth of South-South migration, specifically focusing on Indian migrant women, as accompanying their professional spouses migrating to South Africa. Set within a social cohesion framework, this paper examines how women attempt to find a ‘fit’ in a socially diverse society where distrust, exclusion and racism still prevail. This investigation is based on exploratory research using qualitative interviews conducted with married Indian women. The focus of this paper examines the reasons for their migration, their choice to migrate specifically to South Africa, perceptions of South Africa, their sense of inclusion and observes if they develop a sense of belonging to the country. Preliminary findings show that the migrants find South Africans very tolerant, but keep to themselves as the fear of crime impedes integration. The paper also contextualises the migration of African women from the continent to South Africa within the context of migration, family and reasons for moving.


Ankit is currently a third year doctoral student in Sociology at the Institute of Sociology, University of Wroclaw in Poland. His doctoral thesis documents the biographical in-depth narratives of the emerging adults the lived experiences of women from cross-regional families in rural North India. He is also the principal investigator for a year-long project about forming a solidarity network for cross-regional women at a block level in rural India funded by the Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), New Delhi. He has over four years of work experience in the development sector at grassroots level in India and has done two master degrees in Development and Social Work. His doctoral thesis is expected to be submitted by the end of 2025 and his thesis supervisor is Dr. ha. Iwona Taranowicz, prof. UWr, a noted family sociologist of Poland. 

Pragna Rugunanan is a Professor at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). She was recently appointed to the position of Vice Dean of Research in the Faculty of Humanities. She is an NRF-rated scholar and was invited to join the Canadian Excellence Research Chair in Migration at Ryerson University, Toronto, as a Distinguished Scholar in September 2022 to work in the thematic area ‘Southern’ Perspectives on Migration and Migrant Integration. Pragna’s research interests include the sociology of migration, labour studies, changing patterns of work, social networks, and community studies. She has published on migration, gender, xenophobia, education and citizenship. Her current research is titled ‘Migration, Identities and Trans-continental Linkages: Studying the South Indian Diaspora in South Africa’.

[Publication] Blog post: A Chinese Ethnographer in DR Congo

Chen, C. (2024, February). A Chinese ethnographer in DR Congo: Reflections on the field and fieldwork. Congo Research Network (Field Notes). [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

A Chinese ethnographer in DR Congo:

Reflections on the field and fieldwork

[Part 1] Expatriation in Africa: The Genesis of a Research Project
[Part 2] Connecting with Chinese in DR Congo: Entering the Field Site
[Part 3] Segregated Interactions: Do Chinese-Congolese Couples Exist?
[Part 4] A “Developed” Chinese: Negotiating Multi-faceted Field Relations

Why would a Chinese PhD student choose to conduct anthropological research in Congo? How did he secure access to the field? Do Chinese-Congolese couples exist, considering the “self-segregation” of the Chinese in Africa? How does a Chinese ethnographer navigate his identity and positionality with both Congolese and Chinese informants in the field?

In a series of four blog posts, Cai Chen, a PhD student at the Université libre de Bruxelles, provides insights from his ethnographic fieldwork experiences in the course of his ongoing doctoral research on Chinese-Congolese couples residing in Congo.