Research Projects

My research agenda beyond my first book reflects my interests in South-South relations, security-development nexus, historical memory, political nostalgia, and postcolonial theory. Some of the projects I am excited to be working on include theorizing International Relations concepts from Global South perspectives, and extrapolating from my work on China-Africa to understand post-Western perspectives on hegemony, development, and power relations.

Working Papers

A Relational Approach to Gift-giving: China’s Aid Exchanges in the Global South


This article expands gift-giving theories by shifting the focus of International Relations scholarship from Euro-American-centric views on foreign aid to South-South perspectives gift exchanges. It does so by recentering relationality and analyzing gifts as encompassing favors, symbolic gestures, support in international arenas, and intangible expressions of solidarity as can be seen in China-Africa relations. Building on work in critical theories in International Relations and revisiting Marcel Mauss’ work on gift-giving, this article develops a tripartite relational framework to examining foreign aid and gift-giving from Global South perspectives. The elements of the framework are: 1) Recentering reciprocity as a necessary element (or norm) in gift-exchange which helps break the rigid donor vs. recipient binary. 2) Capturing non-material modalities of aid by accounting for solidarity gestures. 3) Expanding the temporal horizon of reciprocation by accepting that the circulation of gifts, favors, and solidarity does not have to occur on a tight timeline of immediate transaction exchanges. Together these three moves go beyond stigmatizing developing states as chronic “recipient” states and highlight how they engage in mobilizing agency to reciprocate aid in ways other than material. 

Pixelated Politics: China’s Visual Propaganda from the Cultural Revolution to the CPC’s 100th Anniversary 


The 100th anniversary of the CPC was celebrated on July 1st of 2021 with hundreds of state official events, parade festivities, a new museum inauguration, speeches by Xi Jinping, as well as a torrent of Chinese state-issued propaganda materials. Such anniversaries are typically important moments for domestic and foreign narratives of Chinese nationalism and pride. The use of propaganda materials (posters, cartoons, catch-phrases) is not a new vehicle of narrating and shaping identity for Beijing. In fact, Big Character posters (also known as Dazibao) have been a part of China’s self-narrative as well as a political and disciplining tool since the Cultural Revolution during Mao’s rule. In this paper I examine, using visual IR frameworks, over thirty propaganda posters related to Chinese foreign relations in the 1960s. Through the analysis, I seek to understand who and what was the audience of these international solidarity propaganda posters as the CCP was at the time both incurring internal leadership struggles and promoting messaging about anti-imperial solidarity with the developing world. The second part of the paper reflects on the contemporary tools of propaganda used in the Xi Jinping era in comparison with the so-called Mao-cult created through the use of dazibao.

Ongoing Research

Political Nostalgia and the Empire to be (ongoing book manuscript project)

China’s security strategy and mediation diplomacy in Mali (a couple of article projects)


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