Accepted paper:

Settling down by setting up a business - why and how people started small enterprises in Pathein, Myanmar

Author:

Laura Hornig (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology )

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates reasons, resources and challenges for setting up a small business in Pathein, Myanmar. Through case studies it addresses socio-economic factors in the changing urban landscape as well as moral aspects and value-related ideas such as autonomy that business owners refer to.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates reasons, resources and challenges for setting up a small business in Pathein, Myanmar. It is based on a year of ethnographic research in 2015-2016. With access to stable and attractive employment options severely limited, many people became self-employed and pursue their own business ventures in the middle-sized town of Pathein in Myanmar. These people have chosen to stay in Pathein, rather than seeking work elsewhere, as many others do. This paper discusses why people decided to become business owners and how they realized this plan by comparing different examples. Some people directly started as business owners, others have traded secure and respected public sector employment for setting up their own small business, and they often frame this decision in moral terms. In many cases, owning a business is linked to a certain desire for autonomy. However, business owners face a range of socio-economic constraints. Acquiring the necessary capital to start a business through one's own effort is not easy these days, compared to the early period of the transformation (the decade following 1990). Those who started businesses only recently either inherited the business or saved money through working abroad for some years. To outline socio-economic conditions more in-depth, I will take into account how the economic landscape of the town has been shaped throughout the country's history, and how it remains ethnically divided in terms of professions, sectors, and locations.

panel P013
Urban economies which make you stay [Anthropology of Economy Network]