Entrepreneurial Selves

Neoliberal Respectability and the Making of a Caribbean Middle Class

Entrepreneurial Selves

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

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Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: November 2014

Author: Carla Freeman

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

Entrepreneurial Selves is an ethnography of neoliberalism. Bridging political economy and affect studies, Carla Freeman turns a spotlight on the entrepreneur, a figure saluted across the globe as the very embodiment of neoliberalism. Steeped in more than a decade of ethnography on the emergent entrepreneurial middle class of Barbados, she finds dramatic reworkings of selfhood, intimacy, labor, and life amid the rumbling effects of political-economic restructuring. She shows us that the déjà vu of neoliberalism, the global hailing of entrepreneurial flexibility and its concomitant project of self-making, can only be grasped through the thickness of cultural specificity where its costs and pleasures are unevenly felt. Freeman theorizes postcolonial neoliberalism by reimagining the Caribbean cultural model of 'reputation-respectability.' This remarkable book will allow readers to see how the material social practices formerly associated with resistance to capitalism (reputation) are being mobilized in ways that sustain neoliberal precepts and, in so doing, re-map class, race, and gender through a new emotional economy.


"Entrepreneurial Selves is an important addition to a Caribbean studies perspective on neoliberalism and affect." — Sarah E. Vaughn, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Carla Freeman’s book makes a unique contribution to current debates on the issue of neoliberalism in its linking of economic with social and cultural impacts. It also makes a substantial contribution to the literature on Caribbean society by revealing the paradigm shift in the socio-economic and cultural landscape of Caribbean societies today. … With its fascinating and compelling case studies, its scope – linking economy with culture, and historic contexts – and story-telling style, it is an easy and enjoyable read. This book should be read not only by development scholars, practitioners and activists and policy makers, but especially by those interested in learning more about Caribbean society today.”  — Peggy Antrobus, Gender and Development

"Entrepreneurial Selves provides a historically nuanced, theoretically sophisticated and empirically detailed account of the emergence of neoliberalism and the rise of the entrepreneurial middle class in Barbados over the past ten to fifteen years. Freeman’s anthropological approach to the study of entrepreneurship is refreshing and innovative (including her self-reflexive ruminations), and vividly demonstrates the importance of moving beyond the familiar economic frameworks into the realm of identity practices and the construction of entrepreneurial subjects along the lines of gender, class and race." — Emiel Martens, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Entrepreneurial Selves is Carla Freeman’s rich and theoretically sophisticated account of ‘middle-class entrepreneurs’ in Barbados.... Although this is a very Caribbean story, Entrepreneurial Selves will appeal to wide audiences because of the diverse applicability of its findings: that the successful reproduction of neoliberal capitalism requires it be made culturally ‘local’ in every context where it takes root, and that through ethnography we can examine these processes in the subtle detail they deserve." — Rebecca Prentice, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Freeman’s book provides an ethnographically thick and theoretically elaborated contribution, not only to Caribbean anthropology but also, more broadly, to our understanding of the profound affective dimension of work and life at stake in the expansion of entrepreneurship across every sphere of everyday life." — Guillaume Dumont, Social Anthropology

"Freeman’s ambitious ethnography addresses how the logics of global neoliberalism become manifest through and reconfigure local understandings of kinship, gender, and labor." — Clare A. Sammells, Anthropos

Entrepreneurial Selves provides creative and original insights into old topics; I recommend it wholeheartedly for both undergraduate and graduate courses.” — Deborah A. Thomas, New West Indian Guide

"Carla Freeman's scholarship reveals a delicate omnivorousness. She offers a unique perspective on the affective economies through which neoliberal capitalism and its middle-class subjects are made and remade, demonstrating that neoliberalism is not monolithic or guaranteed. Its varied ‘structures of feeling’ are produced, contested, and differentiated. Freeman's way of making and working with theory is rare; it traverses multiple registers, holding in tension the specific, the general, the abstract, and the concrete."
— Cindi Katz, author of Growing Up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children's Everyday Lives

"Carla Freeman's remarkable book, at once ethnographically thick and theoretically sophisticated, is written with characteristic grace and clarity. Freeman complicates neoliberalism and the crafting of the entrepreneurial subject. She eschews easy generalizations that posit causation from neoliberalism to entrepreneurial subjects wherever they happen to co-exist, by pointing to the articulations of entrepreneurialism with the Caribbean dialectic of respectability/reputation, and by situating the complicated history of neoliberalism in the region's long engagement with global capitalism." — Akhil Gupta, author of Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carla Freeman is Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and associated faculty in Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, at Emory University. She is the author of High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy: Women, Work, and Pink Collar Identities in the Caribbean, also published by Duke University Press, and a coeditor of Global Middle Classes: Ethnographic Particularities, Theoretical Convergences.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Entrepreneurial Selves: An Introduction 1

1. Barbadian Neoliberalism and the Rise of a New Middle-Class Entrepreneurialism 17

2. Entrepreneurial Affects: "Partnership" Marriage and the New Intimacy 57

3. The Upward Mobility of Matrifocality 97

4. Neoliberal Work and Life 131

5. The Therapeutic Ethic and the Spirit of Neoliberalism 169

Conclusion 207

Notes 217

References 235

Index 251
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5803-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5792-6
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