Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationYale U.
Grant numberGr. 9712
Approve DateOctober 5, 2018
Project TitleNing, Rundong, Yale U., New Haven, CT - To aid research on 'Becoming Entrepreneurs: The Rise of Entrepreneurship and National Economy in Congo-Brazzaville,' supervised by Dr. Helen Siu
RUNDONG NING, then a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, received a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Becoming Entrepreneurs: The Rise of Entrepreneurship and National Economy in Congo-Brazzaville,’ supervised by Dr. Helen Siu. Using ethnographic observation of numerous entrepreneurial activities and interviews with more than 30 local entrepreneurs, this study examines their working and social life to understand entrepreneurial working as a form of work alternative to both work in informal sector and to the salaried and stable employment in large organizations. Results found that Congolese entrepreneurs tend to ‘patch-work,’ by which they work on different projects to draw different resources, including cash, social connections, training and travelling opportunities, and fame. Their work also has a characteristic the grantee terms ‘labor potlatch,’ in the sense that they spend their labor lavishly for their projects, but many of them don’t produce stable and concrete products other than their identity and social relationship as entrepreneurs. The labor potlatch also makes their labor ceremonial by having a wide range of high-profile activities of entrepreneurs which showcase them and their labor. Through this pattern of work, local entrepreneurs gain a stable identity as entrepreneurs. In public discussions on entrepreneurship people debate about what counts as real innovation and what the state and entrepreneurs should do in Congolese contexts. Thus, the entrepreneurial work in Congo opens up a new venue for reimagining national economy and voicing their political opinions.