SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Dolan, Catherine and Gordon, Claire (2019) 'Worker, Businessman, Entrepreneur?: Kenya’s Shifting Labouring Subject.' Critical African Studies, 11 (3). pp. 301-321.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (292kB) | Preview


Entrepreneurship is increasingly promoted as a salve for the political problem of jobless growth and shrinking state coffers. But, its contemporary position at the frontiers of African capitalism is premised on nearly a century of attention on the African ‘economic man’, figured and reconfigured through efforts of governments and international development institutions. This paper traces a genealogy of this labouring subject in Kenya, describing the ideological, discursive and material practices undertaken to mould African workers into productive economic agents. Across colonial and post-colonial periods, and within different employment contexts, the purported African habitus has been construed as an obstacle to progress, one that can be surmounted through the acquisition of enterprising qualities and entrepreneurial dispositions. Steeped in an ideal of selfhood as individualistic, industrious and future-oriented, the productive economic man has come to represent a set of ideas about the future of the nation, and is deeply entwined with moral valuations of Kenya’s citizenry and with idioms of development and economic growth. The paper details how the productive and enterprising subject is continually invoked as a response to shifting economic and political dynamics, and invested with a perennial capacity to reinvigorate the nation.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISSN: 21681392
Copyright Statement: © 2019 Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Critical African Studies on 18 Dec 2019, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2019 09:20
Related URLs: https://www.tan ... .com/loi/rcaf20

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item