Anth30
Business at work: new ethnographies of private sector dynamics in Africa

Convenors:
Jose-Maria Munoz (University of Edinburgh)
Thomas Bierschenk (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität)
Discussant:
Peter Little (Emory University)
Stream:
Social Anthropology
Location:
Appleton Tower, Seminar Room 2.05
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:15
Friday 14 June, 10:45-12:15

Short abstract:

Entrepreneurship has long framed approaches to the trajectories of business organizations and business people in Africa. The panel invites contributions that depart from this analytical framework and explore ethnographically the legacies, logics, and logistics shaping private sector activities

Long abstract:

Axioms about the need for entrepreneurs in Africa sound today as topical as they did in the late 1980s. Despite the significant changes in policy approaches and economic trends of the last three decades, calls to foster entrepreneurial energies in the continent persist unabated. The heroic figure of the entrepreneur also projects its shadow on much academic research that approaches the private sector through a series of inclusions and exclusions. Often, there is a privileging of what is posited as productive, industrial, innovative, and national at the expense of what is characterized as rentier, commercial, routine, and foreign. Notwithstanding its substantial effects on policy framing and popular representations alike, the notion of entrepreneurship can become a straightjacket preventing us from doing justice to the complexities and entanglements that shape the trajectories of business organizations and business people. The risk is to settle for an impoverished account of the legacies, logics, and logistics shaping business activities in Africa. Accordingly, we invite papers that try to come to terms with the 'full house' of business trajectories in specific times and places. We are keen on receiving papers based on field research but also those engaging with, for example, the prolific but rarely explored written and audio-visual production by business actors themselves. This panel is sponsored by the International Africa Institute