Joint ANSO / IHP Tuesday Seminars
Anna-Riikka Kauppinen

Anti-Empire of Expertise: Pursuing Professional Worth in Ghana’s New Private Sector

Anna-Riikka Kauppinen, Geneva Graduate Institute
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Room S5, Maison de la paix, Geneva Graduate Institute

The Joint ANSO / IHP Tuesday Seminars series is co-organized by the Anthropology and Sociology and International History and Politics Departments at the Institute to discuss global questions from historically and ethnographically-informed perspectives.

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Young professionals in Ghana’s capital Accra question the necessity of gaining work and study experience abroad (e.g Europe and the United States), which has been a historically dominant form of gaining recognition of professional excellence in post-colonial Africa. Drawing on archival research and twelve years of ethnographic engagement with young professionals from lower-middle class backgrounds employed in Accra’s private media and finance scenes, this presentation explores work subjectivities at the interface of global racial hierarchies of expertise and emerging afrocosmopolitan ethical visions of professional quality. Presenting a conceptual distinction between expertise and professionalism, I ask further questions about narratives of professional excellence in the era of jobless growth, when diverse practices of distinction, most notably ‘international experience’, generate new inequalities of access to professional careers.


About the speaker

Anna-Riikka Kauppinen is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Pictet Chair in Finance and Development at IHEID. Her work explores the social networks, expertise, and capital flows that make the private sector in West Africa. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Ghanaian enterprises, large corporations, and financial institutions, her research illuminates how African middle-classes establish careers amid white-collar job scarcity and build economic institutions via innovative forms of financing. Anna-Riikka obtained a PhD from London School of Economics and Political Science in 2018. Prior to joining the Graduate Institute in 2022, she was a postdoc at the University of Cambridge (2018-2021).


The Joint ANSO / IHP Tuesday Seminars is a regular series of discussions co-organized by the International History and Politics and Anthropology and Sociology Departments at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies to discuss a variety of global questions from a multiplicity of historically and ethnographically-informed perspectives.

The Seminars take place every Tuesday from 16:15 to 18:00 in Seminar Room 5 (S5) at the Graduate Institute (Maison de la paix), and are followed by an apero open to the attending public.