Society for Economic Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
From pitching sessions to incubator programs, venture capitalist funds to startup competitions, the material and discursive practices of entrepreneurship increasingly appear uniform across different parts of the world. In this paper, I examine the mechanisms through which this standardization is produced and the implications of the manufacturing of a global entrepreneurial self.
This paper is based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Delhi and New York with entrepreneurs and investors. Despite their historically and culturally shaped locations within global entrepreneurial spaces, the startup scapes of both cities are strikingly similar in terms of daily habits of entrepreneurs, discourses of ethics and labor, systems of investor-led funding and so on. This paper is focused on the following questions: What are the mechanisms through which this standardization is produced? What values are held as significant in this production of globality?
Based on my findings, I argue that these processes are driven by investors and venture capitalists, often linked to corporate social responsibility programs of transnational companies. Aimed at redesigning entrepreneurship as separate from the local socio-economic contexts, the global entrepreneur is manufactured as a flexible, self-managing, charismatic figure who uses technology and speculation to work towards the advancement of humanity. This cultural production is however entangled with local histories of entrepreneurial work wherein alternative narratives and values often reveal the frictions within this global project. This paper highlights both the culturally-shaped processes and institutions through which the global idea of entrepreneurship is constructed, and those that threaten to unravel it.