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Department of Social Anthropology



Anna-Riikka specialises in the study of the private sector in Africa and the emerging middle class in Ghana, where she has done ethnographic fieldwork for the last ten years. Her doctoral research explored the pursuit of professionalism as both a social status and an ethic of work in the capital Accra, a West African business hub where white-collar work is an object of popular desire. She traced the Ghanaian genealogy of professionalism from historical accounts to certificate programs on professional skills, low-income families investing in the career aspirations of their children, exchange of career favours among precariously employed young professionals, and entrepreneurs who aspired to build firms recognised for quality and excellence. She has also written about professionalism through the lens of Ghanaian Charismatic Christian visions of ethical personhood, exemplified by born-again entrepreneurs who framed professionalism as a quality of work recognised and audited by God. She is currently preparing a book manuscript entitled Intimate Audits: Pursuing Professional Worth in a West African Business Hub, which places professional aspiration at the centre of the study of urban Africa and the uncertain futures of the global middle class.

Building on her earlier research and new fieldwork in Ghana, Anna-Riikka’s second, on-going project explores the kind of financial eco-system that the growth of Charismatic Pentecostal Christianity is generating in West Africa. As part of the Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change, this project focuses on the social networks between local banks and Charismatic Pentecostal churches in Accra, where large mega-churches have become important ‘clients’ for Ghanaian local banks that benefit from their large deposits. The project also analyzes the ethical and moral debates that accompany Charismatic Pentecostal involvement in the Ghanaian financial sector, including the collapse of a bank that was partly owned by a church. This project illuminates the distinctive trajectories of financialization beyond the state-market nexus, while building on the global history of Christian churches as ambiguous engines of capitalist transformation.

Alongside her long-term fieldwork, Anna-Riikka has conducted research on British-led efforts to instil a formal sector banking industry in West Africa starting in the late 19th century. This research involves archival work at the Barclays Group Archives housed in Manchester. Through close analysis of travel diaries, letters and reports produced by Barclays executives during their trips to West Africa, this research unpacks the role of private sector executives in the British colonial project.

In addition, Anna-Riikka sustains an interest in the anthropology of desire, race, beauty, and entertainment media. She has researched public spectacles and intimate discourses of beauty in Accra, mapped the urban circulation of Afro-Caribbean cultural styles and fashion trends, and, while interning at an Accra based TV station in 2011, followed the production process and reception of a televised ‘Pop Idol’ on Charismatic Pentecostal preaching called The Pulpit.

Anna-Riikka gained a BSc in Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, and subsequently trained as an anthropologist at the Free University of Amsterdam and London School of Economics and Political Science, where she graduated with a PhD in Anthropology in 2018. Her research has been funded by a number of grants, including LSE PhD Scholarship and Isaac Newton Trust.


Anthropology of Capitalism, Anthropology of Christianity, work, ethics, value(s), ritual, Charismatic Pentecostalism, the African middle class, genealogies of ‘professionalism’, (in)formality, taxation, colonial history of banking and finance, racial capitalism, beauty, anthropology of desire.



2021. “More than money: work as self-realization in Accra's private media.” In Hann, C. (ed.) Work, Society, and the Ethical Self: Chimeras of Freedom in the Era of Neoliberalism. Berghahn Books.

2020. "God's Delivery State: Taxes, Tithes, and a Rightful Return in Urban Ghana." Social Analysis 64(2): 38-58.

2020. "Citizens for Ghana and the kingdom: Christian personal development in Accra." In Bell, E., Gog, S., Simionca, A. and Scott, T. (eds.) Spirituality, Organization and Neoliberalism: Understanding Lived Experiences, pp. 126-148. Cheltenham and Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.

2018. Accra’s Professionals: an ethnography of work and value in a West African business hub. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics.

2014, with Spronk, R. “Afro-Chic: beauty, ethics and ‘locks without dread’ in Ghana.” In Jaffe, Rivke and Barendregt, Bart (eds.) Green Consumption: the Global Rise of Eco-Chic. Abingdon & New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

(under review) “‘Can a pastor own shares in a bank?’ The spiritual vernacular of financial accountability in Ghana”

(under review) “Saving the Indigenous Banks: Moral Politics of Economic Sovereignty in Ghana’s 2017-2019 Financial Crisis”


Review essays

2021. A Research Agenda for Economic Anthropology, edited by James G. Carrier. Cheltenham, United Kingdom & Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019. Anthropology of Work Review 42: 59-60.

2020. "God’s Calculative Experiments: Divine Economic Agency in Early Christianity and Anthropological Theory." In New Directions in the Anthropology of Christianity Review Forum no. 4, p. 3-7. Accessible:

2019, with Lenhard, J. Long Read: Beyond Debt. Islamic Experiments in Global Finance by Daromir Rudnyckyj. LSE Review of Books, republished in LSE Business Review:

2016. Book review interview with Girish Daswani for AnthroCybib:


Public engagement

2021, with Eräsaari, M. “Taxpayer’s Playlist: Filing personal tax returns, with the power of Spotify.” CaMP Anthropology,

2020, with Sheild Johansson, M. "The Fiscal Life of Pandemics."

2015, with Venäläinen, J. “Velkaantumisen pelko vaarantaa demokratian” (”The fear of indebtedness puts democracy in danger”) Guest editorial column published in Helsingin Sanomat 10.7.2015.

Teaching and Supervisions

Lectures and seminars
SAN4a: Africa
’Religion and Capitalism in Africa’
Undergraduate supervision
SAN6: Power, Economy and Social Transformation
MPhil teaching

MP1: Anthropology and Economics 

Dissertation supervising
Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change
Post-Doctoral By-Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge
Dr Anna-Riikka  Kauppinen

Contact Details

Email address: