Oral Presentation Session - Cosponsored Status Awarded
Sponsored by: Society for Economic Anthropology
Cosponsored by: Society for the Anthropology of Work
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists
Primary Theme: Exchange
Secondary Theme: Labor
“The contemporary entrepreneur represents neoliberalism’s heroic actor,” notes Carla Freeman (2014). But despite a persistent focus on the conditions of life under neoliberal capitalism, anthropologists have yet to fully grapple with the role that entrepreneurship (and entrepreneurs) play in our current economic and cultural moment. While many anthropologists implicitly examine entrepreneurship—for example, through investigations of economic development schemes, the workings of micro-credit, the politics of Fair Trade, or the practices of artisans and small-scale vendors (to name just a few)—they rarely focus on entrepreneurship (and the entrepreneur) as an object of analysis in itself. As scholars of capitalism note, entrepreneurship—or the pursuit of identifying and acting upon an opportunity to make profit in a market environment—is the quintessential neoliberal action. But does this neoliberal action, taken by so many of our interlocutors in so many different contexts and communities around the world, suggest a world that has succumbed to neoliberal subjectivity and the limits of the neoliberal economic imagination? Or do the varied motivations, methods, and practices of entrepreneurs indicate emerging forms of resistance, resilience, and adaptation to the conditions of neoliberal capitalism?
Following the efforts of many anthropologists to break down monolithic conceptions of capitalism and uncover potential “uses of neoliberalism” (Ferguson 2010), in this panel we seek to discuss, debate, and better understand entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial subjectivities, and how analysis of these categories may shed light on the limits, or the possibilities, of people’s economic imaginations.
Papers in this panel will touch on the following questions: Does entrepreneurship represent possibilities of disruption and change? Or is entrepreneurship a tool to reproduce neoliberal forms of capitalism? How can we map entrepreneurial subjectivities? How do our current theoretical frameworks or methodological tools enable or constrain our attempts to understand entrepreneurial subjectivities and their transformations? In what situations – social, political, ecological – are entrepreneurial subjectivities formed, re-formed, strengthened, or altered? How do people use entrepreneurship to resist, adapt, survive? How do such practices shape economic subjectivities/imaginaries? How do entrepreneurial practices and subjectivities differ across urban vs. rural populations? Across class and geopolitical divides? Or across different racial/ethnic and cultural groups? Can entrepreneurship be used for good and/or be just and equitable? Under what circumstances does this work or does this fail?