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Accepted Paper:

Startup Nostalgia  
Stefanie Mauksch (Leipzig University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the temporal paradox of startup nostalgia – the cultivation of memory around business projects that have never been launched. I explore this paradox in context of the newly evolving startup community in Khartoum, Sudan.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I engage with the afterlives of failed entrepreneurial startups in Khartoum. Startup founders at times held their business failures in joyful memory, but also expressed darker feelings of an urban youth that finds itself bereft of economic possibility. Starting from the observation that founders framed their startups as both not yet alive and already dead, I explore the coexistence of two opposed temporal formations and the work needed to maintain them. Young people continue to revitalize their projects and express hopes for positive shifts and new money and support. At the same time, they bury their projects rendering them dust-catching artifacts of the past. By exploring this two-fold narrative work, and the material entanglements involved, I depict startup nostalgia as an ambivalent form of longing for a (past) entrepreneurial life that has not yet been lived. I argue that failed startups cannot easily be concluded as they have been brought to contain and materialize graduates’ hopes for improvements and efforts to fill what they had projected as their gap in the universe. The forwards-looking and backwards-memorizing of young people reflects the difficult future making of graduates in Sudan. Startup nostalgia allows young people to appreciate their failures as achievements and to invest into expectations of favorable change. Accounts of startup memory deepen understanding of the effects of mobilizations in contexts of the Global South in which entrepreneurial buzzmaking is on the rise, whereas material support and infrastructural investments remain suspiciously absent.

Panel P154
Paper dreams: traces of unrealised projects as archeology of collective futures [Anthropology of Economy Network]
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -