Anna-Riikka Kauppinen is a sociocultural anthropologist whose work explores the social networks, expertise, and capital flows in West Africa’s private sector. Drawing on 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. Besides her current book project on cultures of professionalism and career pursuits in Ghana, she is engaged in new research on Charismatic Christian megachurches as capital investors and enterprise financiers in Accra and Nigeria’s Lagos. This project analyses the distinctive financial eco-system that religious networks generate in West African urban economies. In addition, she sustains an interest in the history of banking and finance in Africa, especially Africanist intellectual genealogies of economic sovereignty articulated through 'indigenous' ownership of financial institutions.
Anna-Riikka trained as an anthropologist at the University of Helsinki, Free University of Amsterdam and London School of Economics and Political Science, where she obtained a PhD in Anthropology in 2018. Prior to joining the Graduate Institute in 2022, she was a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge (2018-2021), where she was part of the Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change. She is currently one of the editors of Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society and a member of The Anthropology of Tax Network, which advances anthropological approaches to fiscal studies and tax scholarship.
Articles and book chapters
- 2023 (forthcoming). The Nurturing State: An Intimate Portrait of Becoming a Taxpayer in Ghana. Forthcoming in Johansson, M.S, Mugler, J. and R. Smith (eds.) Anthropology and Tax: Ethnographies of Fiscal Relations. Cambridge University Press.
- 2022. "Saving the Indigenous Banks: Moral Politics of Economic Sovereignty in Ghana's 2017-2019 Financial Crisis." Africa 92(4): 561-580.
- 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.
- 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.
In progress/under review
- “Moralizing Finance: vernaculars of accountability in Ghana’s 2017-2019 banking crisis”
- “Prayer Work: Divine Agency and Capitalist Vitality in Ghana’s New Private Sector”
- Intimate Audits: Pursuing Professional Worth in a West African Business Hub (book manuscript in progress)
- 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. More info.
- 2019. Long Read: Beyond Debt. Islamic Experiments in Global Finance by Daromir Rudnyckyj. LSE Review of Books, republished in LSE Business Review.
Current research projects
Charismatic Capital: Christian Investment Relations in West Africa
This project explores the financial eco-system that the past 30 years of growth of Charismatic Pentecostal Christianity is generating in West Africa. In Ghana, Charismatic mega-churches have become important ‘clients’ for financial institutions due to the consistent amount of liquid cash they amass on a weekly basis. Thanks to churches’ success in mobilizing revenue for large-scale infrastructural projects, Ghanaian state agents regard them as models for building fiscal institutions. Some mega-churches and pastors have invested financial capital in their congregants’ enterprises, and become shareholders and corporate board members in financial institutions. Tracing how church-held financial capital circulates in the urban economy in Ghana’s capital Accra and Nigeria’s Lagos, this project considers Charismatic churches as key agents of capitalist transformation and enterprise financing.
Barclays Meets Nkrumah: ‘Africanising’ the Banking Sector
This archival project explores the process of ‘africanising’ banking institutions in the immediate post-colonial period in West Africa, focusing on the negotiations between African politicians and British finance professionals employed in Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered. Made possible through access to Barclays Group Archives in Manchester, the UK, the research involves close analysis of travel diaries, letters and official reports that Barclays executives produced during their trips to West Africa since the late 19th century. These documents include, among others, photographs and letters that describe the ritual proceedings of opening new bank branches in Ghana; minutes of meetings between Barclays and political authorities in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia; as well as situational reports that reveal how Barclays dealt with local demands to ‘africanise’ the banking sector during the wave of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. Central to analysing these documents is to identify how the value of the ‘indigeneity of finance’ is reconfigured in encounters between British banks and West African politicians and bank employees.