Exploring Social Entrepreneurship Across Geographical Spaces: A Conversation with Walter Little & Lynne Milgram

In this episode, Ipshita talks to Professors Walter Little and Lynne Milgram about their long-term research on social entrepreneurship. Walt’s work with indigenous peoples in Guatemala and Mexico and Lynne’s focus on women workers in Philippines lay the ground for a rich conversation and help rethink the globally standardized ideas on what constitutes social entrepreneurship. We also discuss the links between social entrepreneurship and ‘development’ and explore the ways in which ethnographic work and economic anthropology help scholars transcend static frameworks of analysis and gain a deeper sense of the distinctive needs, motivations and values that peoples and communities bring to entrepreneurial labor.

Walter E. Little is Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany, with a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studies the social and political economies of Latin American indigenous peoples, particularly in Guatemala, Mexico, and in the Albany, NY region. His multi-sited ethnographic research combines political economy and interpretive perspectives in order to better understand the politics of identity, economic development, cultural heritage and tourism in urban places, and the everyday practices of handicrafts production and marketplace interactions. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and reviews, including Mayas in the Marketplace: Tourism, Globalization, and Cultural Identity (2004), which won Best Book of 2005 from the New England Council for Latin American Studies, and Street Economies in the Urban Global South (2013), coedited with Karen Tranberg Hansen and B. Lynne Milgram, which won the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize. Walt is also the author of Norms and Illegality: Intimate Ethnographies and Politics, co-edited with Cristina Panella (2021).

B. Lynne Milgram is Professor of Anthropology at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. Her research on gender and development in the northern Philippines has analyzed the cultural politics of social change with regard to women’s work in microfinance, handicrafts, and in the Philippine-Hong Kong secondhand clothing trade. Milgram’s current SSHRC funded Philippine research investigates transformations of urban public space and issues of informality, extralegality, and social entrepreneurship with regard to street vending, public markets, and food provisioning systems. Additionally drawing on transnational trade network scholarship, recent projects also analyze the northern Philippines’ emergent specialty Arabica coffee industry and artisans’ use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to market their crafts. Milgram has published this research in refereed journal articles and book chapters and in five co-edited volumes, including Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches (2009, with Katherine E. Browne), and Street Economies in the Urban Global South (2013, with Karen Tranberg Hansen and Walter E. Little).

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