ESR3 Anuhya Bobba

University of Turku
Supervised by Prof. P. Räsänen and Dr. Aki Koivula
I research evolving forms of hate in the consumer society.

Project Synopsis

Project title: Evolving forms of hate in the consumer society

The project considers how business owners racialized as non-white mediate self-employment in a context of systemic racism, including racist hate speech, in the cities of Helsinki and Turku, Finland. Since 2016, Finnish entrepreneurship and integration policies have put forth self-employment as a method of integration, seemingly as a response to the so-termed “refugee crisis” of 2015. The “crisis” renewed attention to the racism of the formal labor market in Finland, positioned as the primary means of integration at the time. Entrepreneurship is now regularly encouraged among immigrants and asylum seekers, levelled as a desirable economic activity, whereas the labour market is associated with discrimination and racism. This positioning, where entrepreneurship is positive and the labour market is racist, carries one noteworthy implication that requires further problematization: entrepreneurship is a “relatively safe space” (Knight, 2011, p. 1).

Typical hurdles to non-Finnish entrepreneurship, as put forth by the government and various academic studies, include a lack of capital, information, and networks. When discrimination or racism is mentioned, it is exclusively in relation to the formal labour market. Access to capital, information, and networks is mediated by race (Reiter 2020; Charron-Chénier 2020). This becomes imperceptible, since race is analytically underrepresented or entirely absent as a variable in Finnish economic sociology research, where entrepreneurship of this kind is typically studied. Studies from Northern America and the United Kingdom show that entrepreneurship, like other forms of work, is impacted by structural racism and processes of racialization, whereby white and non-white persons will have vastly different experiences of business ownership (see Kroeger & Wright, 2021 or Adeeko & Treanor, 2021).

Accordingly, the project will consist of surveys and semi-structured interviews with minoritized entrepreneurs and other relevant actors (e.g., employment office personnel) on the impact of differential treatment in day-to-day business decisions, interactions, and operations. While the research considers interpersonal instances of racism and other forms of differential treatment that may occur concurrently, it will prioritize a structural analysis that incorporates the state and related institutions, so as to avoid the hate stereotype (Tetrault 2019) that treats such discrimination as atypical rather than pervasive.

 

Biography

Anuhya Bobba is a doctoral candidate under the Department of Economic Sociology at the University of Turku. She is particularly interested in how entrepreneurship is promoted by the Finnish state as a method of integration, not only as a form of work but as a neoliberal ideology, and simultaneously made troublesome to realize in a wider milieu of systemic racism that becomes obscured through European racelessness. Her theoretical framework combines critical entrepreneurship studies, critical hate studies, critical whiteness studies, European racelessness, and racial capitalism.

She received a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University and an M.A. in Social Exclusion from Åbo Akademi. Her master’s thesis, “Structural Vulnerability to Infection: Somali Overrepresentation of Coronavirus Cases in Helsinki, Finland,” was awarded a grant from the Turku Urban Research Programme for original research that is applicable to the municipality’s future development and governance.