CFP: African entrepreneurs: Fashioning the future and negotiating the past at CHAM Lisbon, July 2019

Tuuli Pietila's picture
July 17, 2019 to July 20, 2019
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Anthropology, Area Studies, Sociology, Religious Studies and Theology


P21: African entrepreneurs: fashioning the future and negotiating the past (two panels with presentation of research papers)



  • Ibrahim Abraham (Australian National University)
  • Tuulikki Pietilä (University of Helsinki)

Short abstract

Entrepreneurship is often viewed as a solution to poverty in Africa. These panels focus on small entrepreneurs' aspirations, organizational and business practices, and personal moralities of success. How do African entrepreneurs negotiate the past when imagining the future?


Long abstract

Across Africa, government and civil society has embraced the idea of entrepreneurship as an avenue for upward mobility, and a potential solution to unemployment and poverty. Sometimes entrepreneurs are believed to spearhead the development of a new middle class, solidifying democracy and prosperity. At other times, they are considered selfish operators, as in South Africa where the conspicuous consumerism and unethical practices of "Black Diamonds" and "tenderpreneurs" has attracted much criticism. In these two panels we want to focus on smaller entrepreneurs, engaged in a variety of creative and expressive practices, who have attracted much less attention. We want to discuss small entrepreneurs' aspirations, quotidian organizational and business practices, and personal moralities of success. In imagining the future in changing economic situations, how do African entrepreneurs negotiate the past? Is it a resource to be critically reimagined, the prologue of an ongoing narrative, or a hurdle to overcome? The first panel focuses on South African entrepreneurs; Johannesburg-based fashion entrepreneurs' approach to historical or "African" styles; tech-savvy creative entrepreneurialism as a continuation of the radical liberation struggle of the past; and charismatic religious entrepreneurs seeking ruptures with past spiritual practices and cautiously embracing global forms of blackness. From different angles, these papers show how the past is a resource for imagining the future. Participants are invited to submit additional papers to a second panel on the theme of African entrepreneurs fashioning the future and negotiating the past, focusing on South Africa or other African countries.


The deadline for paper proposals is 5, February 2019. For information about the conference and submitting paper proposals, see


Please circulate the call among those potentially interested.


Contact Info: 

Ibrahim Abraham, Australian National University

Tuulikki Pietilä, University of Helsinki