EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Local entrepreneurial responses to global forces: new and alternative enterprise re-configurations in times of crisis and economic hardship (EASA Network for Economic Anthropology)

Location S-243
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00


Allen Batteau (Wayne State University) email
Hugo Valenzuela Garcia (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona) email
Carmen Bueno (Universidad Iberoamericana) email
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Short Abstract

The financial crisis advances the shortcomings of the current economic system, while global enterprises show a variety of responses more related with social, moral or human values than with making money. Are we these economic strategies creating new economic values? What's the role of the State?

Long Abstract

The current financial crisis and its impact on European societies advance the shortcomings of the current economic global system. In peripheral countries dramatic rates of unemployment, a general fall in consumption, labor casualization, forced labor migration, etc., are provoking the emergence of new economic alternatives. New and revived forms of production, distribution and consumption are emerging as a way to overcome economic difficulties.

At the same time, global enterprises have demonstrated a variety of responses to these trends, at times seeing in them a threat, sometimes as an advantage. These confrontations have produced a variety of responses among the indigenous communities, whether adopting more corporate forms (with multiple cultural incongruities implied), innovative technology, new forms of virtuality in markets and institutions, greater pressures for transparency and accountability (both from above and from below), and the development of new organizational forms whether as workers' cooperatives, rotating credit associations, human-based enterprises, hubs, crowdsourcing, etc. These new entrepreneurial initiatives are more concerned with social, moral or human economic values than with making money.

Based on ethnographic research, this panel will explore the variety of these responses in order to create a more nuanced and respectful view of globalization and economic crisis' effects from an enterprise perspective in multiple world regions. Some of these economic processes and institutions are being reincorporated under a new light and are being applied in new contexts. Are the economic strategies mentioned above, creating new economic values? What's the role of the State in such phenomenon?

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Get rid of the Chinese father when we face the crisis: an ethnographic study of the transformation of a Chinese family jewelry company in Hong Kong

Author: Heung Wah Wong (The University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

This is an ethnographic attempt to understand how a Chinese family jewelry company in Hong Kong (TSL) responded to the financial crisis of 1998.

Long Abstract

This is an ethnographic attempt to understand how a Chinese family jewelry company in Hong Kong (TSL) responded to the financial crisis of 1998. The first part of this paper is to outline the corporate history of TSL in which the founder Senior Tse from his lower class background has been overcoming a series of hurdles to build a famous jewelry company in Hong Kong. We shall examine what characterized Senior Tse's entrepreneurship and the underlying cultural logic. The second part shall trace the historical process of how Senior Tse went bankrupt in the 1998 financial crisis and was sent to jail because of his corporate criminal charges. The third part shall describe and analyze how Senior Tse's family members especially his son and daughter-in-law responded and transformed the company from a traditional Chinese firm into a corporation managed by professional managers. We point out that the crucial point of such a transformation lies in a company- sponsored campaign through which the new management team tried to establish a management philosophy to tackle the problems typical of Chinese family business. The final part of this paper will spell out some theoretical implications to scholarly understanding of Chinese family business.

Lifting half of Japan's sky: rise of women in Japanese management

Author: Tomoko Connolly (College of William and Mary)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the practices of Japanese working women and their strategies for survival and for meaningful work-life balance. It will articulate key obstacles to gender-equity and professional development in Japan.

Long Abstract

Japan's women have been largely excluded from the elite core of most successful large firms that guarantee full-time, long-term, steady employment and promotion to select groups of Japanese male university-graduates. Japanese women quit their careers after having children at a higher rate than in any other advanced economies, resulting in a shallower talent pool. Many women who stay on the professional track forgo motherhood altogether, contributing to one of the world's lowest fertility rates.

While Japan ranks as the third largest economic power, it ranks the 105th among 153 countries surveyed by the World Forum in terms of gender-equity. However, new governmental policy for economic revitalization or so-called Abenomics has made the promotion of working women a signature feature of the country's growth strategy. Prime Minister Abe believes that more active promotion of women in business can rescue the Japanese economy. On the other hand, Japanese company's inability so far to generate a system that allows women to achieve a work-life balance has had dire economic and demographic consequences.

Based on six months of in-depth interviews with managers and ethnographic analysis of the Japanese employment system, this paper examines the challenges and practices of working women who have been recently inducted into top management. It will investigate their strategies for survival and prosperity and for meaningful work-life balance, and will articulate key obstacles to corporate gender-equity and female professional development.

Music, technology, entrepreneurship and the common good in Merida, Yucatan

Author: Gabriela Vargas-Cetina (Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan)  email

Short Abstract

Music in Merida Yucatan is considered part of everyday life and an important part of Yucatecan identity. Trova and Jarana music in particular are said to be the soul of Yucatecans. Here I look at musicians, music technology and organization in the city of Merida, Yucatan.

Long Abstract

Music in Yucatan is considered a fundamental part of who Yucatecans are and how they see and enjoy themselves. Because of this, musicians have long received the support of the state of Yucatan's government and the general public. Music technology and local organizations have played major roles in the development and changes of what is considered 'Yucatecan music'. At the end of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, musicians relied not only on their own entrepreneurship, playing to make a living, but also on musician associations, local businesses and clubs. Trova and, to some extent, Jarana music, have been the two most collectively supported type of music, while tropical music has relied more on the local money-driven side of the market. This configuration, however, is now changing, and as the new generations of musicians subscribe to other styles of music, they are also creating and spurring new forms of organization and music support. In the twenty-first century Yucatecan musicians are expected to be entrepreneurs, but many of them believe in public access and public domain music, and they are trying to balance this with the help of digital technologies. In Merida, the musicscape has become highly varied, and there are now many types of local music, accompanied by many types of music-related economic strategies and sociality-based groups; the musicians and supporting organizations are creating new organizational configurations, and music continues to be perceived as an important part of life.

The new Italian working class: generations in the firm

Author: Veronica Ronchi (Università degli Studi di Milano)  email

Short Abstract

Based on 90 semi structured interviews to workers in an italian multinational firm (between 2012 and 2013) and an ethnographical analysis focused on generations and knowledge transmission in the firm, my analysis focused on the evolution of the italian working class.

Long Abstract

Based on 90 semi structured interviews to workers in an Italian multinational firm (between 2012 and 2013) and an ethnographical analysis focused on generations and knowledge transmission in the firm, my analysis focused on the evolution of the Italian working class.

The large Italian manufacturing company is now immersed in a huge anthropological change due to the introduction, in the factory, of digital natives young workers, with high cognitive ability and overinstructed for the work they lead (with high school diploma or university degree).

The economic crisis in Italy has imposed new occupational choices.

Young people do not recognize themselves belonging to the working class, have an instrumental use of the work and constantly technological change. With all these external incentives can they continue, as their fathers, to work statically in the enterprise manufacturing industry? Survive globalization?

Transnational economy of resource extraction translated: Moroccan argan oil as global commodity and its local economy

Author: Bertram Turner (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses translation efforts of local people in Morocco who are facing the situation that argan oil, their local staple food, has been transformed into a global commodity. Their innovative and creative local way to adapt to the new economic situation is explored.

Long Abstract

This paper addresses translation efforts of local people in Morocco facing the situation that argan oil, their local staple food, has been transformed into a global commodity as a niche product that exhibits all necessary requirements to be integrated in the economy of solidarity and equity as a fair-traded, certified and protected eco-organic product. Such transformation, so is argued, is driven forth by the intertwining and co-production of normative and technological strands in the politics of natural resource extraction. This development, I argue, while widely lauded for its beneficial effects on the ground in that it said to combine development goals such as poverty alleviation and the empowerment of the rural woman with nature conservation and a sustainable resource extraction, increasingly excludes some segments of the local population for whom argan previously used to be part of their economic portfolio.

With regard to local strategies aimed at creating economic niches in the production of this global niche product for the world market, this paper analyzes how configurations of inventories of knowledge, legal repertoires and technologies have been locally translated in response to the global appropriation of the bio-resource and its product. The innovative and creative local way to adapt to the new economic situation was even more challenged through a perception of crisis attributed to the fact that argan was integrated in the suddenly suffering global economy on the one hand and to the course of events that are usually called the Arab spring on the other hand.

What difference does civilisation make?

Author: Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

Between globalisation and the policies of the nation-state, regional and local factors, the economic ethic of the world religions continues to shape the behaviour of families and small businesses. Examples from Russia will illustrate the themes of a comparative project just beginning.

Long Abstract

Research in economic (business) anthropology will be linked to classical debates in historical sociology. The paper begins by asking whether Max Weber's attribution of a distinctive "Wirtschaftsethik" to the world religions is of any relevance in explaining how families and small businesses cope with economic change in the 21st century. The "crisis" which hit global capitalism from 2008 as a result of irresponsible financialisation has not had a uniform impact across Asia. My new research project (supported by the European Research Council) investigates civilisational economic pluralism with reference to China (Confucianism), Burma (Buddhism), India (Hinduism) and Turkey (Islam). Empirical materials derived from the work of Tobias Köllner (not part of the new project) will be presented to illustrate patterns in Russia, the fifth designated research site. Additional studies are planned in other regions of Europe characterised by different strands of Christianity. The overall goal is to assess the contemporary significance of civilisational differences - and of the long-term deep unity of Eurasia.

Yucatecan gastronomy and the paradoxes of patrimony

Author: Steffan Igor Ayora Diaz (Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán)  email

Short Abstract

The notion of "cultural patrimony" precariously sits between the notion of a collective good and its understanding as a tourism commodity. This paper explores the paradoxes faced by Yucatacan gastronomy as entrepreneurs and politicians negotiate the meanings of the term.

Long Abstract

Mexico in general, and the state of Yucatan in particular, are dependent on the development of tourism attractions and services. In this context, in 2010, Mexican gastronomy was declared humanity's heritage. However, Mexico is a country characterized by a diversity of culinary 'traditions', and Yucatan's gastronomy developed within the Caribbean framework rather than as a variation of Mexican cuisine. In fact, as I have argued, Yucatecan gastronomy was developed mostly since the second half of the twentieth century in opposition to Mexican cuisine. In 2013, the Yucatan congress declared the state's gastronomy the cultural heritage of the people of Yucatan. This paper explores the negotiations among different social actors: restaurateurs and cookbook writers who have a vested interest in the reproduction of a gastronomy that privileges the crossing of different international culinary traditions spawning Yucatecan gastronomy as a distinguishable body of recipes, politicians who support this view, declaring, for example, Valladolid as the cradle of creole Yucatecan food, and politicians who subscribe the definition of Mexican gastronomy as patrimony and attempt to define and invent a gastronomy based on pre-Columbian ingredients. As I will show, this has led to the explosion and fragmentation of recipes considered proper of Yucatan, but that introduce meaningful changes in the recipes. In consequence, I will argue, food entrepreneurs in the state have to deal with conflicting definitions of innovation and tradition variously encompassed by the definitions of patrimony.

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