The Field Work Stage   

This article aims to detail the current stage of my research process, the direction henceforth and the rationales behind the changes. 

Presently, I am conducting fieldwork and implementing adjustments which were informed by the pilot exercise. I have interviewed a total of four participants. Although I have treated the later interviews as actual research, they still function as pilots as I continue to improve my focus and data elicitation approaches.  

I have also made several informal approaches in person or by phone to potential participants. I have held some meetings with cultural intermediaries and gatekeepers which yielded a growing list of potential research contacts (The list is provided as a separate attachment).

Change of Data Collection Methods 

The reality of the scope and pace of the fieldwork process has influenced a change of approach. Initially, I intended to exploit a visual method, which would have required significant input in terms of time, human resource and equipment. It became apparent that access to media equipment from the university would be a potential drawback as I required clearance for certain kinds of equipment, which are normally reserved for subject specialists.  

I also attempted to deploy the narrative interview method.  However, I observed that the respondents gave brief responses, which necessitated follow-up question and further probing. I then made the decision that subject matter and the category of my respondents would be best matched with the semi-structured to unstructured interview approach.  The adoption of semi-structured interviews is proving efficient in enabling the participant to express their lived experience more fully.

I am presently reviewing the compatibility of the participant observation method with the goals of the present study. I intend to exploit an opportunity to work with a family of creative entrepreneurs as they prepare to launch the fashion line. This will require my presence at every stage of planning up to the launch cum fashion show.  I envisage the process to entail ethnographic and intervention elements and opportunities for data elicitation.  

Reflections from the field  

The pilot sessions and subsequent interviews have revealed the need for a continual iterative development of the interview protocol. It also calls for a constant review of questions and questioning techniques to maintain relevance to the unique experiences of different participants.  

I appreciate the importance of good grasp of theory and hypothesis for an effective extraction of quality responses. The field process requires an effective alignment of interview questions and the discussions in the study.   

The process of recruiting interviewees has revealed the challenge of having them to commit to appointments.  Although most outrightly expressed willingness to take part in the study, yet it has required significant persistence for them to commit to an interview. A strategy on my part has been flexibility and to allow the respondent to choose any time slot no matter how inconvenient to me. I have also been careful not to postpone or cancel any appointments.  

I noticed that the list of potential respondents is dominated by Zimbabwean cultural entrepreneurs. This is predictable as I belong to the same community. I acknowledge that it will require more effort to recruit participants from other African countries.  

I now have more appreciation for the importance of preparation prior to engaging in a research contact. I have benefited from having a thorough knowledge of the research participant’s practice ahead of the interview.

It saves time to have all devices fully charged at home to avoid wasting research time looking for power sockets upon arriving at the venue.  

The participants are all unique and vary in terms of experience and practice, which has required flexibility in the application of the interview protocol, constant review of the questions to accommodate new lines of enquiry and realignment with hypothesis and theory. 

Practicalities and decisions  

Recording: I have benefited from the decision to record the interviews, which has enabled me to focus on the responses and ask follow-up questions. I have mitigated the risk of malfunctioning of the recording equipment by using the phone as a backup.

Data management: The audio files and the transcription are kept in Microsoft OneDrive, which offers several layers of encryption and ease of access from the cloud.  

Transcription: I intend to transcribe a few interviews until themes start to emerge when I will require the services of a professional transcriber.

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THE IDENTITY OF BLACK BRITISH AND BLACK AFRICAN 

 

The provocation to disentangle the identity of my study population from the wider notion of Black Britishness is an important part of my research.  

To appreciate the bankruptcy of the broad Black British identity, I explore the history of the development of the Black community, which reveals the circumstances that necessitated minority communities to coalesce under an umbrella Black identity.  

Rather than the ‘broad village’ approach, which encompasses the wider black diaspora, I have adopted a ‘narrow village’.  

I refer to the study population as first-generation Africans, a literal reference to new immigrants from the continent of Africa. 

The study of the participation of new immigrant African cultural entrepreneurs comes at a time when Africans have become the biggest group among UK’s black population, ahead those from the Caribbean.  

I propose that a better understanding of the unique cultural experience of the Black African community can be realised by relating it to the history of the development of the black community in the UK.   

Post-war Britain needed to solve the shortage of labour to fill the menial jobs the indigenous population thought beneath them. After unsuccessful appeal for European labour, the British government turned to the non-white section of its Commonwealth for abundant cheap labour.  

The arrival of the Caribbean workers and subsequently immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in the 50’s would permanently transform the complexion of the British society.   

The settlers had initially intended to work long enough to improve their living conditions in their sending countries, the same view was bought by the host community who were initially perceived as welcoming.  

However, the more the fortunes of the new immigrants began to diminish, partly due to variable economic climate, the more immigrants began to abandon the prospects of returning to their home countries and adopted a long-term approach to their settlement which included facilitation of family reunions.  

Consequently, the public sentiment began to turn against the black immigrants and the emergence of immigration control rhetoric in society and politics, which in turn engendered the rise of black resistance movements in the UK.  

The apparent racial inequalities and the racially charged political rhetoric bolstered the non-white communities to coalesce under the black identity. A perceived common experience of racism brought the black immigrants together which necessitated the adoption of ‘black’ as an organising term. 

For Hall (1996), the term “black” was coined to reference a common experience of racism and marginalisation in Britain and facilitated a new politics of resistance among minority communities with, in fact, very different histories, traditions and ethnic identities. The imperative was the common experience of racialised inequalities rather than cultural identity exactitude. 

Most relevant to the present study, is the reversal of the common struggle which coincided with questions about the validity of a common black experience for different minority groups.  

The reversal of the activities of black political alliances gave way to a new sentiment which questioned the validity of a common black struggle. 

Modood (1988; 1994) vociferously contested the idea of a black alliance and intensely challenged the term ‘black’ as an essentialist construct, arguing that it was harmful to Asians. He viewed the location of blackness as exclusively African but not South Asian (Modood 1988: 402).  

Modood’s view reflected the zeitgeist of the late1980s which questioned the validity of a homogeneous black experience and interest and ushered in a new discourse of heterogeneity, which maintained the struggle without overlooking different of interests and identities (Hall, 1996). 

The struggle for black arts   

In the 1980s the black resistance found a platform in arts through the birth of the Black Arts Movement. The movement spawned out of the struggle against imperialistic aesthetic structures, which also saw minority artists coalescing around the black identity. 

The Black Arts Movement emerged as a critical response by establishing an ideological framework for a militantly radical arts movement (Araeen in (Bailey and Boyce) 2005). 

The founding curators Eddie Camber and Keith Piper, identified themselves as descendants of “Africans dispersed during the Atlantic slave trade” and explicitly identified themselves with the struggle of African people all over the world (Araeen, 2005).  

To some the Arts Movement still exists, which Araeen (2005) ragards as fantasy. As in the case of the black alliance political movement, the same problems associated with the notion of a common black experience is attributed to the death of the Arts Movement. 

The reversal of the activities of the Black alliance and Arts Movement attest to the complexity of articulating a homogeneous black aesthetic and cultural experience, which motivates the present study towards enhanced awareness of the heterogeneity or shades of cultural experience.  

According to Gilroy (1993) the existence of different tones of blackness has presented new political tension in black cultural production between the celebration of pluralization of black identities and those who subscribe to idea of simple racial essences.  

 Gilroy also asserts that an invariant black experience across different cultural spaces has been mortally undermined. 

 For Hall, the issue here is the recognition of different social experiences, and cultural identities, which cannot be assigned to a fixed transcendental racial category (Hall, 1996). 

The obsolesce of a collective struggle and the irrelevance of a coalesced black identity eliminates the justification for comprehensive minority descriptors.  

Therefore, the discussion on the Black British identity has been an attempt to clarify and justify my parochial deployment of the Black African term for the study population. 

The term ‘Black African’ has been used in recent censuses and more established in 2011 census which revealed the group is now the majority group in Britain’s black community as ahead to those who identify as Black Caribbean (ONS, 2015).  

The term excludes those residents of Africa who are of European or South Asian extraction and people of North African ancestry (Aspinall and Chinouya, 2016). In this study I use it as literal reference to people who have migrated from the sub-Saharan African. 

 

Notting Hill: Babylon strikes again 

The days leading to the Notting Hill Carnival involve intensive preparation on many sides, especially the design of the elaborate costumes and mobile sound systems. 

For this year’s carnival season, the police preparations involved a series of dawn raids, which they regarded as a pre-emptive strategy against the anticipated criminal activities that they have associated the cultural event with.   

The title of this article uses the term ‘Babylon’, which is a powerful Rastafarian colloquialism and now well established in Black Carribean vernacular for referring to repressive state organs.  

The police raids, which involved a search of 13 homes and 30 arrests, had the marks of repressive establishment narrative, which is emotively espoused in the Black community.  

There are several ways to view this. One may view it as diligent policing, however, on the other hand, it could be viewed as a familiar instance of Police surveillance of Black culture. 

The post- Second world war immigration surge, saw the arrival of Trinidadian newcomers who brought the musical tradition of the steel band. By the summer of 1965, the Trinidadians organized their first Carnival, known today as the Nottinghill Carnival.  

The coming years saw the event evolve into a prominent feature in the Afro-Caribbean calendar. The concentration of blacks in the Noting Hill area made the natural venue for this annual street party.  

It wasn’t too long before this new loud cultural affair caught the attention of the natives with varied reactions, mainly resistance.  

According to Kwesi Owusu (1986, p.8), “as the carnival expanded its cultural and political horizon so did the White opposition to it”.  Owusu notes that this was not true of all White people.  

The allegations included loudness, which the Caribbeans viewed as an unfair instance of amnesia since they also endured sustained loud bangs during the Guy folks season.  

The response was sabotage by neglect by local authorities and increasingly the police viewed the event as a problem. This criminalisation of the of Noting Hill carnival has persisted down the years up to this past summer.  

A major implication of this pattern for my study is the appreciation of the resilience of hegemonic methods and dominant culture’s angst towards Black culture. 

The above is a chronicle of a significant motif in this hegemonic pattern of the surveillance of Black culture.  

As seen in the case of Noting Hill carnival, some commentators have drawn attention to the unfair fetishisation of the dominant culture with Black artistic expression.   

However, an interesting dimension is that this hegemonic supervision does not always manifest violently, but often in the form a destabilising gaze 

Larry Neal (1999) refers to this the double consciousness as “the tension that is in the souls of the black folk”. 

Stephen Henderson (1973) alluded to Black poetry that is composed with the awareness of the white world looking over the shoulder.  

From experience, this gaze is internalised by the subject of the gaze in a way which exaggerates or destabilises the aesthetic expression.  

I have been a spectator of instances of performativity by Black African artist, who often try to accommodate white sensitivities by whitewashing elements of culture such as the lobola ritual.  

In avoidance of self-righteousness, I admit being directed by the same awareness in the past. I have exploited the fascination with the clique sounds in the Zulu/Ndebele language by exaggerating them in my singing. 

Erick Nielson (2014) observes that any attempt for Black art to extricate itself from the white gaze often draws unprecedented amounts of white attention. He adds, the reality is the enduring intersection of black art and white surveillance.  

 

 

 

 

‘Good work’ and First-generation African cultural entrepreneurs

Cultural work is often characterised in celebratory tones. Its ‘good work’ image as interrogated by Oakley (2014),  appears to be a mythologised version of reality.

Rosaling Gill (2011) also  challenged the popular ‘cool’ image of cultural industries, by associating it with themes such as  pervasive insecurity, low pay, and long hours.

Notwithstanding these counter claims, the ‘cool’ and ‘good work’ appeal of the cultural sector remains largely undiminished.

My point of entry in this discussion is the ‘coolness’ or ‘goodness’ of cultural entrepreneurship as experienced by different social classes, in particular, first-generation African cultural entrepreneurs in the UK.

Scott (2012) describes the demographic of this social group as predominately young, armed with the primary goal to build an artistic career.

I suppose their youthfulness affords them with a measure of  latitude which may be out of the reach of older cultural workers.

For instance, Leadbeater and Oakley (1999) alluded to the experimental culture as a dominant feature of the new cultural entrepreneurial class. They are armed with idealism which propels them while undertaking unpaid work. It is hard to imagine cultural workers of a more mature demographic investing time in experimental work.

In this context, it is worthwhile to consider how the realities of cultural work relate to the realities of being a first-generation African.

Another concern is whether first-generation cultural entrepreneurs share the same motivation to engage in cultural work as their indigenous counterparts. Fregetto (2004) has suggested that ethnic entrepreneurs are forced into self-employment because of disadvantages that they encounter in the job market.

The cultural entrepreneurship theory is replete with references to the DIY attitude of the new cultural entrepreneurs. Leadbeater and Oakley (1999)  observe that cultural workers represent a quite different vision of the future of workers who want to do without capital or according to Ellmeier (2003):”sans capital”.

To that end, Scott (2012) observes that the cultural sector operates on alternative forms of capital according to Bourdieu’s capitals thesis. They mobilise these forms of capital in creating new cultural goods.

Scott identifies, among many, social capital, which converts into symbolic capital and thus generates economic capital.

Therefore, although cultural entrepreneurs appear to transact without economic capital, they have other forms of capitals that they are able to cash in.

This warrants the question: How much of these capitals do first generation African cultural entrepreneurs have?

Given the newness of this group to the UK, I would hypothesise that first-generation African cultural workers are less resourced than their younger and indigenous counterparts.

This accentuates the imperative to test the ‘goodness’ of cultural work through the experiences of first-generation African cultural entrepreneur.

So much has been said about intermittent, ‘gig economy’  and other unflattering characterisations of the cultural sector. Resent attention has cast a spotlight on the issue of unpaid internships.

This emboldens my inquiry into how these not so ‘cool’ patterns of work operate in the lives of first-generation African cultural entrepreneurs.

 

 References 

Ellmeier, A. (2003) Cultural entrepreneurialism: on the changing relationship between the arts, culture and employment. International Journal of Cultural Policy 9 (1), 3–16.

Fregetto, E. (2004), ‘Immigrant and ethnic entrepreneurship: a U.S. perspective’, in H.P. Welsch (ed.),Entrepreneurship: The Way Ahead, New York: Routledge, pp. 253–68.

Gill, R. (2002). Cool, Creative and Egalitarian? Exploring Gender in Project-Based New Media Work in Euro. Information, Communication & Society, 5(1), pp.70-89.

Leadbeater, C. and K. Oakley (1999), The independents: Britain’s new cultural entrepreneurs,London: Demos.

Scott, M. (2012). Cultural entrepreneurs, cultural entrepreneurship: Music producers mobilising and converting Bourdieu’s alternative capitals. Poetics, 40(3), pp.237-255.

Oakley, K. (2014). Good Work? Rethinking Cultural Entrepreneurship. In: C. Bilton and S. Cummings, ed., 1st ed. Cheltenham: Edward Edgar.

 

 

 

First-Generation Entrepreneurship

The distinction of my research is the generational dimension of Black African cultural entrepreneurship.

A handful studies have perfunctorily explored the aspect of first-generation Ethnic entrepreneurship, which points to the potential loss of opportunities for richer theory.

I also suspect the lack of sustained focus on the aspect of first-generation entrepreneurship could be due to lack of commitment to treating the concept as a distinct phenomenon from ethnic and immigrant entrepreneurship.

This conceptual fuzziness can be seen in the case of immigrant entrepreneurship, which is often deployed as a synonym for ethnic entrepreneurship, with little regard to the definitional nuances in the two notions.

My work is partly predicated on an in-depth understanding of ethnic entrepreneurship and immigrant entrepreneurship. I, however, intend to focus on first-generation entrepreneurship as a pathway to the conceptualisation of first-generation African cultural entrepreneurship in the UK.

This article attempts to clarify and justifies the rationale for adopting a generational approach to the present study. The idea of First-generation African entrepreneurship is more than a conflation of terms, but a concept with the potential of yielding understanding about unique factors that impact the cultural participation of ethnic groups in the UK.

Nwanko (2005) observes that the relative nascence of African entrepreneurship is underpinned by the fact that over 90 percent of the entrepreneurs are first-generation business owners. This observation underscores the relevance of the generational quality in African entrepreneurship.

The generational element of ethnic entrepreneurship is noted by Masurel and Nijkamp (2004) by intimating that second-generation immigrants show a profile that comes closer to the profile of native people, in comparison with their first-generation counterparts. For example, different levels of acculturation between Idris Elba a second-generation African and me a first-generation African in the UK.

These generational discrepancies will be explored in detail on my next blog: ‘Being first-generation cultural entrepreneur’.

Considering these prefatory remarks, I advocate the development of ethnic cultural entrepreneurship theory from a generational dimension for the following reasons: Firstly, different ethnic generations have unique dynamics such as social capital and level of acculturation (Osewa-Ediae, 2011). Second, interesting actions in response to a devaluation of skills learned in the home country by the receiving labor market as well as the general poor command of the receiving country’s language (Portes and Sensenbrenner, 1993).

Chaganti and Greene (2002) identify the three groups of ethnic businessmen: immigrant entrepreneurs, ethnic entrepreneurs, and minority entrepreneurs. (Butler and Greene, 1997). I, however, observe that the above terms lack the time element or ‘date stamp’,  which is a unique quality of ‘first-generation entrepreneurship’.

Lastly, the generational dimension has connotations of being long-term, partly, because of the expectation of a second generation counterpart group. Conversely, ‘immigrant entrepreneurship’ conjures transiency, for instance, the case of immigrant entrepreneurs from the European zone, who often come to do business in the UK for defined periods of time.

Bibliography

Greene, P. and Chaganti, R. (2002). Who are ethnic entrepreneurs? A study of Entrepreneursapos; ethnic involvement and business characteristics. Journal of Small Business Management, 40(2), pp.126-143.

Nijkamp, P. and Masurel, E. (2004). Differences between first-generation and second-generation ethnic start-ups: Implications for a new support policy. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 22(5), pp.721-737

Nwankwo, S. (2005). Characterisation of black African entrepreneurship in the UK: A pilot study. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 12(1), pp.120-136.

Osewa‐Ediae, C. (2011). Assessing the sustainability of London based black African SMEs. World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, 7(1), pp.59-80.

Finding a voice and the pursuit of fairness

During a recent supervision meeting, I expressed my anxiety of finding a position and voice to articulate issues pertaining to racialised access to cultural production.

My work is a response to a call by Hesmondhalgh and Saha (2013) for a renewed attention to race and ethnicity in researching cultural production.

Articulating the connection between race and cultural production will be integral to my work. As I started reading and reflecting on issues at stake, it got me thinking about my relationship with the study. I soon noticed that I was entangled with the issues in the study by default.

I mainly reflected on my activism-averse disposition versus the goal to articulate political themes effectively. My concern was how to avoid militancy and owning an agenda, not inherently wrong, however, not always compatible with the scholarly process. Although I am a keen political commentator, I have often refrained from taking an active role. My temperament is disinclined to polemics.

I am aware of the reality of inequalities and the need for sustained investigation. However, it’s easy to approach it with an agenda to force a perspective rather than a  scholarly process of clarifying phenomena.

I wondered how is able to remain purely academic while maintaining a healthy distance from political issues, which may well be part of one’s identity. How do I embrace my experience as an asset and not a threat? How do I represent racial charges fairly? How does one avoid subjectivity which comes from one’s worldview?

This is what I now understand as the problem of trying to achieve a scholarly, distance, seen in scientific disciplines, which could be impossible in humanities or social studies. In some scholarly circles it is referred to as the ‘myth of the objective viewer’.

I guess it will require constantly negotiating the strait between the attempt not to be an overly politicised black man in Britain and being too distant from political the n a way that renders one irrelevant.

As a scholar it is expected that although I am a black scholar articulating issues of race, I should possess the abilities or willingness to attempt to exercise a level of objectivity which is widely recognised throughout academia as a near impossibility. I guess what matters is an attempt to be fair, rather than an established position.

The reality remains that we come to the study with some insight, which needs embracing as validation for one to engage in that work. I suppose the most important thing is to acknowledge my entanglement in the issues and to develop methods to try to be distant from the study, to avoid becoming the study.

At the end of the day, grappling with these thoughts has made me more self-aware and a realisation that what matters is a self-development trajectory.

I was only able to appreciate that although I may be considered a mature student, I need to mature academically. How this can be achieved, will be a subject of a future blog.

The  reflection exercise brought me to a realisation of a perpetual process of constantly striving and attempting to be objective.

This requires exercising reflexivity, which I’m pleased I’ve already started doing through this blog.

 

 

Challenging Western beliefs and definitions of entrepreneurship

My initial attempt to review literature  on the subject of entrepreneurship is promising to be more than a semantical exercise. A cursory exploration reveals  challenges with established Western and Eurocentric notions of entrepreneurship.

I have chosen to gain in-depth understanding of the notion of entrepreneurship, as a route to understanding the experiences of the experiences of first-generation African cultural entrepreneurs.

Experience informs me that the exploits of my research population is largely characterised by self-employment, which necessitates investigating what entrepreneurship entails.

However, the initial lifting of the hood and kicking of the tires reveals a highly fluid and intricate concept, uncharacteristic with benign and virtuous qualities often associated with entrepreneurship.

It is clear that the tidy established classifications of what constitutes entrepreneurial activity will not suffice in the study of peripheral group such as first-generation Africans cultural entrepreneurs in the UK. For instance, I wonder if  activities such as faith-healing could be considered as entrepreneurial.

The grand definitions pretend as if these activities do not exist and therefore render themselves incapable of elucidating entrepreneurial experiences of marginal populations.

The problem of predominant conceptualisation of entrepreneurship is that it only considers the grand economic actions at the expense of what Max-Neef refers to as working lives and practices of groups who are ‘ marginal  to the main economic neoliberal system’. Max-Nee’s work highlights issues of representation of ‘stories of little people, i.e. indigenous, peasants, minorities, poor, marginal and so forth’.

My initial stab at critical entrepreneurship is partly inspired by the works such as ‘Barefoot entrepreneurs’ J Miguel Imas, Nick Wilson and Alia Weston. These works have sought to contribute  to emerging field of critical entrepreneurship studies, which intends to challenge the grand notions of who and what is an entrepreneur.

The work entitled ‘Explaining off-the-books entrepreneurship: a critical evaluation of competing perspectives’ by Colin C. Williams and others is part of this glowing field of work which seeks to challenge assumptions such as risk taking, wealth and business success. They have queried the relegation of certain informal activities as non-entrepreneurial on the basis that they don’t conform to commercial traditions of entrepreneurship.

Some studies are beginning to showcase alternative ideas such as necessity entrepreneurship and survival entrepreneurship, to dispel long held heroic and virtuous associations.

I envisage that the process will culminate with a comprehensive understanding of what entrepreneurship is. I also foresee the necessity of developing a definition that will be a better fit to the present study population.

I relish the expansion of the list of activities that can be considered as entrepreneurial, to encompass things such as recycling, hairdressing and begging.