skip to content

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 Professional Worth: Work, Middle-Class Futures and Ghanaian Desire, 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 and Nigeria, Anna-Riikka’s second, on-going project asks how the West African private sector emerges out of church-enterprise-state networks of exchange and circulation of advice, ritual, capital and people. As part of the Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change, this project takes particular interest in social networks between large indigenous capitalist conglomerates and Charismatic Pentecostal churches in Accra and Lagos. In doing so, Anna-Riikka seeks to illuminate the diversity of cultural formations of capital and distinctive trajectories of economic formalisation 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.


Key publications: 


(under review) God’s Delivery State: Taxes, Tithes and the Rightful Return in Urban Ghana.

(fc. 2020) “God’s Citizens: Christian personal development in Accra, Ghana,” in Emma Bell, Sorin Gog, Anca Simionca & Scott Taylor (eds.) Spirituality, Organisation and Neoliberalism: Understanding Subjectivities. Edward Elgar.

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. Abstract:
Please email me for a pdf-copy.

2014, with Spronk, Rachel. “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. Bloomsbury.


Review essays

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

2016. Book review interview with Girish Daswani for AnthroCybib:


Public engagement

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

2010. ‘The Lingering Field’, in Standplaats Wereld

Teaching and Supervisions


Lectures and seminars
SAN4a: Africa
’Transformations of African Christianities’

Undergraduate supervision
SAN5: Ethical Life and the Anthropology of the Subject
SAN6: Power, Economy and Social Transformation

Research Associate, 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: