I received my PhD in 2016 from the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law at the University of Aberdeen. My doctoral dissertation focuses on travelling concepts of citizenship in urban Ghanaian activism. The theoretical starting point of my dissertation is the problem that, stemming from a widespread homochronist world view, orders of social interaction are routinely inscribed with dissimilar temporal values, such that some societies ‘lag behind’ others. Critical theorists, such as Harootunian or Mbembe, refer to Benjamin’s theory of history when they suggest an alternative, heterotemporal perception of history with multiple yet coeval strands of time repeatedly converging and diverging from one another and, thereby, producing transformations. My argument emphasises the creative work of translation in these convergences. My work is inspired by the theoretical advancements of the Priority Programme of the German Research Foundation (SPP1448), of which I have been a member between 2011 and 2018. As a junior member of the SPP1448, my research traced the translation of business models in the mobilities of transnational entrepreneurs between China and Ghana, a topic on which I have published in a range of disciplinary and area studies journals. In 2017, I started my post-doctoral project on the production of biometric measurement policies in Ghana. Funded by the DAAD PRIME/ EU Marie Curie Actions, I spent 12 months as a visiting fellow at Sciences Po, Paris, and WISER, Johannesburg, where I explored how categories, practices and material infrastructures for measuring and authenticating identity in Africa are brought into existence in the circulation (and ultimately, translation) of expert knowledges.

Current Affiliations 

DAAD PRIME Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University Bayreuth

Associate at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies/ Institute of African Affairs

Key Publications                                         

Thiel, Alena (2017) “Entangled temporalities: Ghana’s national biometric identity registration project.” in Anthropology Today 33 (1):3-5

Thiel, Alena and Jan Beek (2017) “Orders of Trade: Regulating Accra’s Makola Market.” in Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 49 (1):34-53

Thiel, Alena and Michael Stasik (2017) “Market men and station women: changing significations of gendered space in Accra, Ghana.” in Journal of Contemporary African Studies 34 (4):459-478.

Marfaing, Laurence, Karsten Giese and Alena Thiel (2016) “Introduction. Du rejet des autres à leur implication dans les dynamiques de changement social.” in Entrepreneurs africains et chinois. Les impacts sociaux d’une rencontre particulière, 7-29 , edited by Karsten Giese and Laurence Marfaing. Paris: Karthala

Giese, Karsten and Alena Thiel (2015) “Chinese factor in the space, place and agency of female head porters in urban Ghana.” in Social and Cultural Geography 16 (4):444-464.

Marfaing, Laurence and Alena Thiel (2013) “The Impact of Chinese Business on Market Entry in Ghana and Senegal.” in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 83 (4):646-669.

Giese, Karsten and Alena Thiel (2012) “The vulnerable other ‐ distorted equity in Chinese‐Ghanaian employment relations.” in Ethnic and Racial Studies 37 (6):1101‐1120.

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