How are China’s experience of Western colonialism and today’s Chinese projects in Southeast Asia and Africa related to each other? What are the similarities between the 19th century foreign control over customs and security in treaty ports on Chinese territory and contemporary concessions on for instance palm oil plantations in Congo-Kinshasa? And why do we need both anthropology and history to understand these connections?In his inaugural lecture Prof. Pal Nyiri answers these questions. He suggests that whereas foreign concessions – areas partly removed from the sovereignty of a state – are associated with the past or recent past, they signal in fact a more rather than less prominent role in the future. He insists that ethnographic research on concessions is important for the understanding of evolving forms of sovereignty, and points out a possible direction in which historical and anthropological approaches can fruitfully complement each other.