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Department of Social Anthropology

 

Biography

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 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.

Research

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.

Publications

Key publications: 
Academic
 
(under review) More than money: work as self-realization in Accra's private media.
 
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. Abstract: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/3706/
Please email me for a pdf-copy.
 
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.
 
 
Review essays
 
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:  https://www.new-directions.sps.ed.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Divin...
 
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: https://www.blogs.hss.ed.ac.uk/anthrocybib/2016/04/05/interview-girish-d...
 
Public engagement
 
2020, with Sheild Johansson, M. "The Fiscal Life of Pandemics." https://allegralaboratory.net/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. https://www.hs.fi/paakirjoitukset/art-2000002837366.html
 
 
 

 

Teaching and Supervisions

Teaching: 
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
 
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: