Economics

Q&A with Howard E. Covington Jr., Author of Lending Power

Covington, Howard photo cred Joe Rodriguez.

Photo by Joe Rodriguez

Howard E. Covington Jr. is a freelance historian and biographer and the author or coauthor of several books, including Terry Sanford: Politics, Progress, and Outrageous Ambitions, also published by Duke University Press; The Story of Nationsbank: Changing the Face of American BankingHenry Frye: North Carolina’s First African American Chief Justice; and Favored by Fortune: George W. Watts and the Hills of Durham. An award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, Covington received the Ragan Old North State Award for nonfiction in 2004. His latest book is Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union Turned Small-Time Loans into Big-Time Change, the compelling story of the nonprofit Center for Community Self-Help, a community-oriented and civil rights-based financial institution that has helped provide loans to those who lacked access to traditional financing while fighting for consumer protection for all Americans.

Lending PowerWhat drew you to write about Self-Help? How did you become involved in this story?

This is an unusual story that doesn’t follow the normal theme of the life and times of an up-and-coming NGO. I was drawn to the improbable. How did a credit union initially funded by the proceeds of a bake sale become the largest lender for low- and moderate-income home borrowers in the nation?

Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright founded the Center for Community Self-Help to assist displaced factory workers in North Carolina become worker-owners in the plants where they once worked. They were savvy enough to learn from the experience, which did not work, and shifted their strategy. They didn’t change the mission—to assist those trying to make it on the margins of the economy—but they found a new way to give folk a hand up. Home ownership replaced worker-owned business as the way out.

Most NGO founders fail to learn as they work and eventually come to a dead end. Self-Help adjusted to meet reality. That’s a good story with lessons for many in public service work.

Eakes and others at Self-Help cooperated with me on this project, but not all met it with enthusiasm. Eakes rebuffed my first attempt to do this book. He later agreed to my work on the condition that it not become his biography. That was hard to manage, but I believe I honored the spirit of that request.

 Who does the Center for Community Self-Help serve in North Carolina? What impact has it had not just for individuals, but for communities?

Self-Help now provides financial services for large segments of the nation’s unbanked population from California to Florida. Those who benefit most are African Americans, single mothers, Latinos, and underemployed workers who have not had ready access to home loans or other financial services at a cost they can afford.

Communities have benefited from Self-Help’s partnership with larger institutions, such as Duke University, in the rehabilitation of entire neighborhoods. Self-Help has helped neighbors work with neighbors since the mid-1980s. It continues to provide technical support and funding for neighborhoods across the state.

In Chicago, Self-Help saved a community bank that had long served the city’s large Latino community. Borrowers facing foreclosure were assisted with loan modifications that allowed them to stay in their homes. Likewise, the financial strength of a local financial institution was restored and today continues to serve its customers.

 What made Self-Help so successful?

It was nimble and willing to adapt. It also developed sources of income independent of foundations or government agencies. It has been able to dance to its own tune, not that called by someone else.

It was creative and willing to take risks, moving into segments of financial services that traditional banks had either ignored or disregarded. Opportunity lay in the space between the feet of the big elephants in the marketplace. It then took what it learned and shared it with others.

Throughout the years, it remained true to its mission and recruited a staff, willing to work for low wages, that believed the organization could make a difference in the lives of those it served.

What are some of the biggest challenges that Self-Help has faced? How did it overcome those challenges?

Five to eight years on, Martin Eakes and the Self-Help staff wrestled with Self-Help’s future and determined that there were multiple ways to serve. This willingness to adapt to lessons learned allowed Self-Help to expand into other areas of work. It also resulted in growing confidence of the ability of Self-Help staff members to deal with multiple opportunities and move beyond a narrow range of options.

What relevance does your book hold for readers who might not be familiar with Self-Help? What lessons can readers take away?

The principles that have guided Self-Help can be applied to any NGO. Focus of mission, sustainability, adaptability, resilience, and adherence to fundamental business practices are tenets that will aid any organization. They do not have to limit the mission or dampen the passions of those called to serve.

The book also provides a broader understanding of the causes of the Great Recession, a financial catastrophe that was driven by the greed and arrogance of Wall Street, not the low-to-moderate income borrowers who got caught up in the tidal wave.

How do you see the role of Self-Help moving forward, especially in the current political climate?

Self-Help continues to use its creative lending to restore historic properties and revitalize communities. Financial services—loans at reasonable rates, savings accounts, small loans—are part of a portfolio at credit unions in California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida. The network will continue to grow, especially in the Southeast.

Self-Help has avoided partisanship, but has not avoided dealing in areas rife with controversy. It has one of the largest lending programs for charter schools in the nation. Its clients are carefully selected to insure soundness of the program and relevance to the communities served.

Over the years, Self-Help worked with Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature to pass North Carolina predatory lending law, which helped the state avoid the worst of the Great Recession. It does draw heaps of criticism from segments of the financial industry—payday lenders, title lenders—for its work at the Center for Responsible Lending, its advocacy and policy development shop.

You can order Lending Power from your favorite local or online bookstore (print and e-editions available) or save 30% when you order directly from Duke University Press. Use coupon code E17LEND at check out to save.

Read to Respond: Labor

R2R final logoOur “Read to Respond” series addresses the current climate of misinformation by highlighting articles and books that encourage thoughtful, educated debate on today’s most pressing issues. This post focuses on labor, worker’s rights, and neoliberalism. Read, reflect, and share these resources in and out of the classroom to keep these important conversations going.

Labor

These articles are freely available until December 15, 2017. Follow along with the series over the next several months and share your thoughts with #ReadtoRespond.

Symposium on the Contributions of Business to Economics

ddhope_49_2In the most recent issue of History of Political Economy, “Symposium on the Contributions of Business to Economics,” edited by Robert Van Horn and Edward Nik-khah, contributors examine how business has influenced economic policy, how businesses have actively participated in constructing economic doctrines, and how businesspersons used, engaged with, challenged, and steered economists in economic policy.

The issue focuses on the contributions of business to economics and brings together contributors from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Editors and contributors examine the historiographical challenges of determining who is an economist and who is a businessperson. These essays shed light on how the relationship between business and economics has evolved and suggest directions for future historical work.

“Symposium of the Contributions of Business to Economics” includes articles on topics such as:

  • mercantilism
  • political economy
  • epistemology
  • international trade
  • business consulting
  • science and democracy

and much more.

Browse the table of contents and read the introduction, made freely available.

Remembering Craufurd Goodwin

goodwin-cropped.jpgWe are saddened to learn that Craufurd Goodwin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Economics and the founding editor of History of Political Economy, passed away last week.

He is remembered at Duke University Press for being an incredibly vibrant and larger-than-life person. Goodwin’s editorial term for the journal lasted from 1969 through 2010 and he was a great publishing partner with the Press for many years.

From Duke Today:

“Craufurd was one of a small group of people who started the field of the history of economic thought,” said Paul Dudenhefer, assistant director of the Duke EcoTeach writing program who worked with Goodwin for more than 15 years. “It used to be done as part of economics in general. Through the founding of the journal, he helped make it its own subfield. He institutionalized the subfield of the history of economics.”

Among colleagues, Goodwin made the environment interesting. Dudenhefer said Goodwin “was always eager to talk about the fascinating things he was reading and writing about. Working with him was extremely educational and entertaining. He made me laugh every day.”

A past president and distinguished fellow of the History of Economics Society, Goodwin was instrumental in the construction of the professional community of historians of economics.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Craufurd Goodwin’s family, friends, and colleagues, as well as the Duke community.

Labor and Empire

ddlab_13_3_4In the most recent issue of Labor, “Land and Empire,” edited by Leon Fink and Julie Greene, contributors consider the question: “Who built the US empire?” By taking us into the world of working class people across North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, the essays in this double issue recount a history of empire building focused on the interconnections between capitalist and state expansionism.

Topics include labor and resistance in the US Army during the Civil War, Imperial politics of Filipino labor, Puerto Rican laborers in the Dominican Republic, and the decolonization of Korean labor under US occupation, among others.

From the introduction:

The articles in this double issue of Labor thus emerge from and reflect an exciting field of historical research and intellectual engagement, including new directions in transnational and imperial history and renewed engagement in both of these fields by labor historians. Together they demonstrate the inextricable connections between the history of US empire and the history of labor. The articles reveal dynamics in the logic of US empire that would not be visible in a top-down historical methodology. Furthermore, they demonstrate that what we think of as “US labor history” involved working people and sites of labor around the world. They challenge us not only to make global processes and interactions relevant to our narratives and interpretations of labor and working-class history but, more particularly, to realize the significance of imperial and colonial power relations in shaping that broader labor history. Five major themes weave through the essays as they engage with the labor history of empire. They draw our attention to the unfree labor of military service and its central role in building North American and US empire; struggles over citizenship in the unequal territories of the United States; the complex role of colonial and postcolonial subjects as migrant laborers; the labor tensions involved in US occupations; and labor migration as central to the logic of empire.

Read the full introduction, made freely available.

National Coffee Day

Today is National Coffee Day—the perfect opportunity to say “thank you” to the foamy friend that renders us functional in our day-to-day lives. But this drink has a complex and conflict-filled history, and modern coffee production is a world of its own. Check out some of our scholarship on the brewed beverage.

978-0-8223-5150-4In From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive, Paige West tracks coffee as it moves from producers in Papua New Guinea to consumers around the world. This vivid ethnography illuminates the social lives of the people who produce, process, distribute, market, and consume coffee.

Julia Landweber examines coffee’s adoption into French culture and diet in “This Marvelous Bean,” published in French Historical Studies (volume 38, issue 2). She explores how coffee, initially mistrusted by the French for its bitterness, health risks, and associations with the Ottoman Empire, became a beloved beverage and attracted a burgeoning culture of consumers interested in exotic novelties.

978-0-8223-3766-9Historians trace the paths of many of Latin America’s most important exports—coffee, bananas, rubber, sugar, and more—in From Silver to Cocaine. Each contributor follows a specific commodity from its inception, through its development and transport, to its final destination in the hands of consumers.

Charles W. Bergquist’s influential 1986 book Coffee and Conflict in Colombia, 1886-1910, had several important consequences for the study of Latin American history and the study of Colombia. Bergquist’s analysis of this transitional period left a mark on all subsequent studies in Latin American affairs. His examination of the growth of the coffee industry and the Thousand Days’ War is a major contribution to the field.

978-0-8223-2218-4In “That a Poor Man Be Industrious,” a chapter of Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State, Aldo Lauria-Santiago examines the experience of a late-1800s ladino peasant community in El Salvador with land tenure, coffee production, and regional politics. The community’s experience with the pressures and opportunities of an expanding coffee economy provides insight into El Salvador’s ladino peasantry.

Nancy Um’s “Foreign Doctors at the Imam’s Court,” published in Genre (volume 49, issue 2), sheds light on an overlooked phenomenon: early modern medical diplomacy to Qasimi Yemen during the “Coffee Era,” in which foreign merchants flocked to the southern Arabian Peninsula with the interest of procuring coffee, a commodity that was then still difficult to purchase elsewhere.

In “Territories of Desire,” published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (volume 12, issue 2), Aymon Kreil contrasts the intimacy of coffee shops in Egypt, as locales where men gather to chat about sex, with the intimacy of conversations within the family. Although research often focuses on family as the realm of intimacy, Kreil argues the importance of considering alternate contexts.

Donald J. Trump and the Spirit of Proletarian Luxury

Donald J. Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidential election raises worrying issues concerning the spirit of our times. In today’s guest post, John Armitage and Joanne Roberts, co-editors of the recent special issue of Cultural Politics on “The Spirit of Luxury,” reflect on Trump’s promotion of “the spirit of proletarian luxury.”

ddcup_12_1Donald J. Trump is a highly successful businessman with a net worth, according to Forbes, of $4.5 billion. As the owner, chairman, and president of The Trump Organization, he caters to the desires of the super-rich through the construction and operation of luxury real estate developments, hotels, golf courses, and retail outlets. Indeed, the success of his company relies on the super-rich: a demographic group imbued with “the spirit of haute luxury,” characterized by values of refinement, sophistication and discretion.

In the race for the Republican nomination, Trump is wooing mainly white working-class Republicans, many of whom are still reeling from the impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, and who feel betrayed by the extant political classes. Trump, then, offers something fresh, as a face from beyond the realm of politics, yet simultaneously familiar, as a television celebrity. However, we contend that Trump is trading down in terms of the groups that he is seeking to attract. In the process, he is adopting crude, unsophisticated, and sometimes indiscreet language and behaviors. Consequently, Trump offers himself up as a symbol of seemingly attainable success: in Trump’s world, everyone can achieve prosperity displayed through luxury penthouse suites, mansions, aircraft, cars and a whole host of other luxury goods and services. Moreover, Trump presents the prospect of upward social mobility through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the process of promoting the contemporary manifestation of the American Dream, Trump thus advances the spirit of luxury. But he does so in ways that reach beyond the super-rich. Certainly, for us, Trump cultivates what we call “the spirit of proletarian luxury” – the brash, “bling,” even vulgar, type of luxury that satisfies the need to display success through conspicuous consumption.

Given his own great wealth, Trump has deep pockets with which to finance his campaign. However, the indirect cost, in terms of the erosion of support from his super-rich clients, is proving to be high. The results of a recent survey by BAV Consulting/Young & Rubicam, reported in Politico, suggests that the Trump brand is losing its luster among high income consumers. From the perspective of Trump as a luxury brand, therefore, we argue that the brand is being democratized such that its diversification into national politics is making it more accessible to a wider, yet, crucially, less affluent, group of followers. Nevertheless, as a luxury brand, Trump must be aspirational and inaccessible to the less well-off; otherwise it loses its symbolic value as a luxury among the super-rich.

While the Trump luxury brand may be losing ground among the super-rich, Trump’s own personal popularity has soared among those with lower incomes. By appealing to a mass electorate, then, Trump portrays himself as the personification of the American Dream, of the new spirit of proletarian luxury that is within everyone’s reach.

New Books in March

It is already March and Spring is on its way, but even more exciting are the new books coming out this month. And we have plenty of them!

978-0-8223-5997-5_pr

Diana Taylor’s Performance explores the multiple and overlapping meanings of performance, showing how it can convey everything from artistic, economic, and sexual performance, to providing ways of understanding how race, gender, identity, and power are performed.

In Indian Given María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo provides a sweeping historical and comparative analysis of racial ideologies in Mexico and the United States from 1550 to the present to show how indigenous peoples provided the condition of possibility for the emergence of each nation.

In The Official World Mark Seltzer analyzes the suspense fiction, films, and performance art of Patricia Highsmith, Tom McCarthy, Cormac McCarthy, J.G. Ballard, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and others to demonstrate that the modern world continuously establishes itself through the staging of its own conditions.feminist bookstore

Kristen Hogan traces The Feminist Bookstore Movement‘s rise and fall, showing how the women at the heart of the movement developed theories and practices of lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability that continue to resonate today.

Drawing on an eclectic range of texts and figures, from the Greek Cynics to Tori Amos, Nick Salvato’s Obstruction finds that embarrassment, laziness, slowness, cynicism, and digressiveness can paradoxically enable alternative modes of intellectual production.

A celebratory new edition to Jane Lazarre’s Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness, in which she, a white Jewish mother, describes her experience being married to an African American man and raising two sons as she learns, from family experience, teaching, and her studies, about the realities of racism in America.

In Cold War Anthropology, David H. Price offers a provocative account of the profound influence that the American security state has had on the field of anthropology since the Second World War by mapping  out the intricate connections between academia and the intelligence community.

diaspora and trustIn Memorializing Pearl Harbor Geoffrey M. White examines the challenge of representing history at the site of the attack that brought America into World War II, showing that the memorial to the Pearl Harbor bombing is a site in which many histories are continually performed, validated, and challenged.

In Diaspora and Trust Adrian H. Hearn proposes a new paradigm for economic development in Mexico and Cuba that is predicated on the development of trust among the state, society, and each nation’s resident Chinese diaspora communities, lest they get left behind in the twenty-first century economy.

In Sexual States Jyoti Puri uses the example of the recent efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in India to show how the regulation of sexuality is fundamentally tied to the creation and enduring existence of the Indian state.

the geographiesAntoinette Burton’s Africa in the Indian Imagination challenges nostalgic narratives of the Afro-Asian solidarity that emerged from the 1955 Bandung conference by showing how postcolonial Indian identity was based on the subordination of Africans and blackness.

In The Geographies of Social Movements Ulrich Oslender examines the activism of black communities in the lowland rain forest of Colombia’s Pacific coast to show how the mutually constituting relationships between residents and their environment informs the political process.

In Domesticating Organ Transplant Megan Crowley-Matoka examines the iconic power of kidney transplantation in Mexico, where the procedure is inexorably linked to the imaginings of individual and national identity, national pride, and the role of women in creating the Mexican state.

motherless tounge
In The Sublime Perversion of Capital Gavin Walker examines the Japanese debate about capitalism between the 1920s and 1950s, using it as a “prehistory” to consider current problems of uneven economic development and contemporary topics in Marxist theory and historiography.

In Motherless Tongues Vicente L. Rafael examines the vexed relationship between language and history as seen through the work of translation in the context of empire, revolution, and academic scholarship in the Philippines, the United States, and beyond.

In Tourist Distractions Youngmin Choe uses Korean hallyu cinema as a lens to examine the importance of tourist films and film tourism in creating transnational bonds throughout East Asia and how they help Korea negotiate its twentieth-century history with the neoliberal present.

Ricardo D. Salvatore’s Disciplinary Conquest rewrites the history of Latin American studies by tracing its roots back to the first half of the twentieth century, showing how its ties to U.S. business and foreign policy interests helped build an informal empire that supported U.S. economic, technological, and cultural hegemony throughout the hemisphere.

 

Hurricane Katrina: 10 Years Later

This week marks the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In remembrance, we take a look at the books and journal articles we’ve published on that historic event.

Adams cover image, 5449-9

Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith is an ethnographic account of long-term recovery in post-Katrina New Orleans. It is also a sobering exploration of the privatization of vital social services under market-driven governance. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, public agencies subcontracted disaster relief to private companies that turned the humanitarian work of recovery into lucrative business. These enterprises profited from the very suffering that they failed to ameliorate, producing a second-order disaster that exacerbated inequalities based on race and class and leaving residents to rebuild almost entirely on their own.

Filled with the often desperate voices of residents who returned to New Orleans, Markets of Sorrow, Labors of Faith describes the human toll of disaster capitalism and the affect economy it has produced. While for-profit companies delayed delivery of federal resources to returning residents, faith-based and nonprofit groups stepped in to rebuild, compelled by the moral pull of charity and the emotional rewards of volunteer labor. Adams traces the success of charity efforts, even while noting an irony of neoliberalism, which encourages the very same for-profit companies to exploit these charities as another market opportunity. In so doing, the companies profit not once but twice on disaster.

Thomas cover image, 5728-5Most of the narratives packaged for New Orleans’s many tourists cultivate a desire for black culture—jazz, cuisine, dance—while simultaneously targeting black people and their communities as sources and sites of political, social, and natural disaster. In Desire and Disaster in New Orleans: Tourism, Race, and Historical Memory, the Americanist and New Orleans native Lynnell L. Thomas delves into the relationship between tourism, cultural production, and racial politics. She carefully interprets the racial narratives embedded in tourism websites, travel guides, business periodicals, and newspapers; the thoughts of tour guides and owners; and the stories told on bus and walking tours as they were conducted both before and after Katrina. She describes how, with varying degrees of success, African American tour guides, tour owners, and tourism industry officials have used their own black heritage tours and tourism-focused businesses to challenge exclusionary tourist representations. Taking readers from the Lower Ninth Ward to the White House, Thomas highlights the ways that popular culture and public policy converge to create a mythology of racial harmony that masks a long history of racial inequality and structural inequity.

ddmnr_84The most recent issue of the minnesota review includes a special section entitled, “Katrina Ten Years Later.” This cluster of essays focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina including the measures that could have been taken to prevent the massive devastation caused by it and the immediate and long-term responses by the government, private industry, and civil society.

Contributors to the section ask how Katrina left a permanent mark on the Gulf South and the larger national imaginary, whether we’ve learned any lessons, and what actions and policies we’ve adopted to mitigate against future disasters. Gaurav Desai argues: “Haunting though the images may be, the flooded homes and emergency rescues from rooftops were not the only impact Katrina had—it altered fundamental social contracts in cities such as New Orleans, from public education to public housing. It also awakened a new activism focused on issues ranging from calls for better levee protection to addressing the loss of wetlands in coastal communities.” Topics include real estate in post-Katrina New Orleans, ghost music in the Ninth Ward, organization and individualization in urban recovery, and Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans.

A forthcoming issue of Public Culture, “Climate Change and the Future of Cities: Mitigation, Adaptation, and Social Change on an Urban Planet,” volume 28 and issue 2, addresses climate change in urban areas. Contributors hypothesize that the best techniques for safeguarding cities and critical infrastructure systems from the threats related to climate change have multiple benefits, strengthening networks that promote health and prosperity during ordinary times as well as mitigating damage during disasters. Sign up for electronic table-of-contents alerts for Public Culture to be notified when the issue is available in Spring 2016.

Further reading on Hurricane Katrina from Duke University Press journals:

ddpcult_21_2“‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp… with… a Whole Lot of Bitches Jumpin’ Ship’: Navigating Black Politics in the Wake of Katrina,” by Michael Ralph in Public Culture, volume 21 and issue 2.

Rebuilding the Past: Health Care Reform in Post-Katrina Louisiana,” by Mary A. Clark in Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, volume 35 and issue 5.

World History according to Katrina,” by Wai Chee Dimock in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, volume 19 and issue 2.

Recent Titles on Entrepreneurship

ddsaq_114_3The most recent issue of SAQ: South Atlantic Quarterly, “On Entrepreneurship: Immaterial Labor and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century,” volume 114, issue 3, edited by Imre Szeman and Dan Harvey, addresses the gap in contemporary cultural research on enterprise and the entrepreneur. Contributors to this issue interrogate the ways in which the idea of entrepreneurship and the figure of the entrepreneurial subject functions politically, economically, and aesthetically. This issue continues the investigation from a cultural studies, humanities, and social science perspective first introduced by Foucualt’s preliminary work in the 1970s. Topics include the entrepreneurial university, entrepreneurial journalism, cultural labor and class composition, objectivization of the self in social media, decommodification, and the birth of the ontopreneur. Browse the table of contents and read the introduction to the issue.

Freeman cover image, 5803-9Entrepreneurial Selves: Neoliberal Respectability and the Making of a Caribbean Middle Class 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.

Shipley cover image, 5366-9Jesse Weaver Shipley’s recent book, Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music is an  ethnography of hiplife, a popular Ghanaian music genre. Hiplife mixes hip-hop beatmaking and rap with highlife music, proverbial speech, and Akan storytelling. In the 1990s, young Ghanaian musicians were drawn to hip-hop’s dual ethos of black masculine empowerment and capitalist success. They made their underground sound mainstream by infusing carefree bravado with traditional respectful oratory and familiar Ghanaian rhythms. Living the Hiplife is an ethnographic account of hiplife in Ghana and its diaspora, based on extensive research among artists and audiences in Accra, Ghana’s capital city; New York; and London. Jesse Weaver Shipley examines the production, consumption, and circulation of hiplife music, culture, and fashion in relation to broader cultural and political shifts in neoliberalizing Ghana.

Shipley shows how young hiplife musicians produce and transform different kinds of value—aesthetic, moral, linguistic, economic—using music to gain social status and wealth, and to become respectable public figures. In this entrepreneurial age, youth use celebrity as a form of currency, aligning music-making with self-making and aesthetic pleasure with business success. Registering both the globalization of electronic, digital media and the changing nature of African diasporic relations to Africa, hiplife links collective Pan-Africanist visions with individualist aspiration, highlighting the potential and limits of social mobility for African youth.