Entrepreneurial Labor between Ghana and China

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Entrepreneurial Labor between Ghana and China

Author | Affiliation:
Silvia Lindtner | University of Michigan

Presenting at:
Panel 2A | Invisible Chinese Internet Users and Infrastructures


Political discourses in China and Ghana have over the last ten years coalesced around a shared demand. Governments in both countries have variously called upon their citizens to transform themselves into tech entrepreneurial agents — on behalf of their nation and to become competitive in a global market of finance capital, venture capital investment, and future making. These political processes in China and Ghana are not unlike various experiments with neoliberal techniques of governance elsewhere, yet their particular forms are shaped simultaneously by national histories of colonialism, economic and political transformation and the globalized promise of both individual and national empowerment via technological ingenuity and creativity. In this paper, I present findings from ethnographic research I have conducted in Ghana and China, zooming in on various forms of entrepreneurial labor deemed necessary to produce markets of national future making, especially in light of recent development initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Made in China 2025. I show how entrepreneurial labor is a site of contestation that, unlike older forms of labor struggle, seldom holds collective political power and tends to be fragmented, granting (at times) individual empowerment over collective well-being. I unpack this dynamic by providing insights into the workings of “two generations” of entrepreneurs, who have been working in the shifting markets of Africa-China trade and IT innovation. I pay particular attention to dynamics of gender and postcolonial desires for entrepreneurial agency.

About the author

Silvia Lindtner

Email: lindtner@umich.edu

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