Vivian Lu

I am an assistant professor of anthropology at Rice University whose work focuses on the cultural politics of markets, transnational commerce, and diaspora. My first book manuscript (in progress) traces the extensive commercial migration of Igbo Nigerian businessmen across the Middle East and Asia. Based on ethnographic and archival fieldwork primarily based in Nigeria, the project examines how these transnational south-south circuits are transforming social and economic life in Nigeria, with a focus on market formation, identity, and postcolonial economic sovereignty.

Beyond the first book project, I am currently building two projects on 1.) Nigerian business and diaspora on the African continent in the context of contemporary pan-African and south-south economic formations, and 2.) the nexus of local business, race, environmentalism, and parastatals in the Rocky Mountain Front Range urban corridor of the contemporary American West.

My research has been supported by sources such as the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Prior to Rice, I was an assistant professor of anthropology at Fordham University, an African Studies postdoctoral associate at Yale University, a race and ethnicity studies graduate fellow at Stanford University, and a visiting Ph.D. student at the University of Lagos (Nigeria). I am currently the “Mobility, Migration, and Borders” sub-theme co-chair for the African Studies Association (US), and I am also involved in the Association for Feminist Anthropology and the Lagos Studies Association.



Lu, V.C., 2022. “Emplacing capital: Securing commerce and citizenship in the Nigerian megacity.” American Ethnologist 49(4): 491-507.

Lu, V.C., 2022. “Mobilizing home: Diasporic agitations in the global remakings of postwar southeastern Nigeria.” African Studies Review 65(1):118-142

Huang, Mingwei, V.C. Lu, Susan MacDougall, & Megan Steffan, 2018. “Disciplinary Violence.” Anthropology News 59(3):79-82

Lu, V.C., 2017. “Agitating the State: Biafran Money, Memes, and Mobility.” The Republic: Journal of Nigerian Affairs Vol. 5: On Violence & Civil War

Lu, V.C., 2017. “Biafra—Nostalgia as Critique.” Africa is a Country

Research Areas

Anthropology of capitalism, diaspora, migration, nationalism and secession, ethnoracialization, suspicion, kinship and gender, Nigeria, Africa-China Studies, Asian American Studies, south-south globalization


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