Academic Workshop

The Hustle Economy: Race, Gender, and Digital Entrepreneurship

Call for Applications

Workshop Date:
Thursday, May 20, 2021
The application portal is now closed.

Apply to participate in Data & Society’s academic workshop, The Hustle Economy: Race, Gender and Digital Entrepreneurship. This online collaborative program on May 20, 2021 will have space for both deep dives into academic works-in-progress as well as multidisciplinary discussions of alternative practitioner projects that contribute to the understanding of hustle economies and their embodiments. Data & Society’s Director of Research and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington Sareeta Amrute, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia Lana Swartz invite applications from project leads to workshop their academic papers, podcasts, chapters, data mappings, and so on, and from collaborators to prepare interdisciplinary feedback on the selected works-in-progress. Together, we’ll help develop this emerging field centered on the lived experience, blunders, and promises of the digital economy.

Data & Society academic workshops enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns. They’re designed to maximize scholarly thinking about the evolving and socially important issues surrounding data-driven technologies, and build connections across fields of interest.

Participation is limited; submit your application by March 1, 2021 at 11:59pm EST.

Who We are Looking For

One of our fundamental workshop questions is, “What and who doesn’t get talked about enough when we talk about the digital economy?” We are interested in projects about people, economic practices, and technologies that are often left out of discussions on digital economies, and new angles on typical, conventional stories.

We invite applications from researchers, scholars, practitioners, artists, and thinkers making theoretical, historical, and methodological contributions to the understanding of hustle economies and their embodiments. We’re especially interested in bringing together emerging and established scholars in legal, organizational, activist, policy, media, and platform domains. Critical political economists, scholars of algorithmic governance, law scholars, and those at the intersection of humanities and narrative studies–especially fields such as African American and African diaspora studies, Latinx studies, Indigenous studies, Asian, Asian American and Asian diasporic studies, and gender and sexuality studies–are encouraged to apply.

Note: If you’re working in cryptocurrency, have a purely technical role, are an undergraduate, have limited critical race, gender, postcolonial and decolonial studies experience, and/or are looking to present a finished piece of work, this is NOT the workshop for you. Please visit for other opportunities.

When we select participants, we will ask:

  • Does the project go beyond well-trodden (even if important!) narratives about the digital economy?
  • Does it attend to how difference (race, gender, class, caste) plays a role in the digital economy? Does it make global connections?
  • Does it incorporate how the design and operation of economic technologies (fintech, commerce platforms, social platforms used for commerce) has differentiated consequences?
  • No matter what stage of development it is in, can the project benefit from the workshop?
  • For Project Leads as well as Collaborators: Is the applicant well-poised to participate in a conversation that consolidates a new theoretical vision of and research agenda for the digital economy?

About the Workshop Theme

Today, all entrepreneurship is digital. But, while Silicon Valley startups may celebrate their ability to platform small-scale businesses, the turn to digital economies is a response to precarious employment. It is a hustle that shows how risk has devolved from states and employers to workers. Though hustling often refers to outside-work activities and informal economies, it has always been and continues to be a mainstay of producing economic security for households across the world. It is also recognized as a property of racial capitalism, as a cultural form that adheres to some bodies but not others, as the hustle is associated with Black women in the United States, for instance, and with similarly gendered, raced, classed and casted bodies throughout the world. Understanding how racial capitalism intersects with digital economies means coming to terms with the various structures and infrastructures, patterns of inclusion, desire, and stratification that are produced when ordinary lives are made through the mode of digital entrepreneurship. This workshop invites scholarly and creative thinkers to consider many facets of emerging digital economies, and to dream up the research and directions for future investigations that can help shape these dynamics and implications moving forward. All participants will leave with a great sense of this emerging field and some new ideas for how to take this work further.

Relevant project topics for this workshop might include:


  • What are the differences between formal financial platforms (such as online auctions and banking services) and how that economic activity looks on non-financially branded platforms?
  • How are women’s historical experiences with global supply chains translated online? How do these translations participate in global ideas of blackness, caste, gender, religion, and so on?
  • How do global supply chains draw on and remake development apparati and venture capital?
  • How do small businesses become online businesses (via digital commerce, etc)?


  • What are the ways in which this new economy blurs who is considered a “consumer” vs. an “entrepreneur”?
  • What do networked femme economies look like in this space?
  • What do digital economies promise? How do these economies participate in both private enterprise and the public economies of service?
  • What are the reigning ideologies of digital payment systems? What are their infrastructures, and what is the consumer’ side of payment systems, especially from an infrastructural perspective?


  • How does platform capitalism intersect with racial capitalism, theoretically and empirically (methodological tools, terms agreement)? What are the racial logics of precarious unemployment? How does hustling reroute precarious unemployment into precarious self-employment?
  • How can we expose uncanny e-commerce and trace the legitimacy and illegitimacy of boundary work, scams, and schemes?
  • How does finance explicitly and implicitly become part of online relationships? What industries are unstudied as platforms, such as merchandising, gift shops, etc.?
  • How can we grasp the lived experience of the digital economy in all of its contours?
  • How has the pandemic economy influenced online financial systems and businesses?


  • How do online financial issues surface in humanities?
  • What are historical formations of digital economies and how do they relate to the current moment?
  • What is the documentary history of banking and other financial fields that is useful to understand digital economies? What are the ideas that give these economies their power? What other kinds of narratives, such as those of number runners, of local traditions of financial innovation, and of local hustles, like those of the tapori [vagabond] are being obscured?
  • What popular narratives and representations–like the concept of jugaad [workaround]–naturalize the sense of who are valid participants in these economies? What genres are being produced around them?

We encourage attendees to approach the Data & Society workshop series as an opportunity to engage across specialties, and to strengthen both relationships and research through participation. While we recognize the value for individual projects, we also see this as a valuable field-building exercise for all involved.


The online event takes place on Thursday, May 20, 2021 from 10 a.m. ET through 5 p.m. ET (exact timing to be confirmed). All eligible participants will receive a $150 stipend. Unlike a conference, this workshop focuses on reading, imagining, and offering interdisciplinary responses to in-progress projects, and building collaborative networks for exploring interwoven themes.

Project Leads: this is a fantastic venue for workshopping a project. If you have an appropriate in-progress paper or other type of work (investigative podcast, data mapping, etc.), you are strongly encouraged to submit a project summary for consideration. Drafts of journal articles, conference papers, law review papers, and book chapters are all welcome. Projects are expected to be in draft stage with room for improvement; the goal of this event is not to present finished work but to truly workshop works-in-progress. Project Leads will listen to, and engage with, critical discussion from the assembled group about the idea, with the explicit intent of making the project stronger and more interdisciplinary. Note that Project Leads may share their session’s workshop with other thematically tied proposals, and are expected to read and provide feedback for 2 other project sessions during other portions of the day, in addition to receiving comments on their own work. A maximum of 2 co-leads may apply separately using the same project summary.

Collaborators: If you do not wish to submit a project-in-progress but are interested in the topic, we welcome your application as a Collaborator. All Workshop Collaborators will be asked to review 3 project themes in advance of the event and to prepare comments for intensive discussion. Some Collaborators will be asked to be Session Facilitators, and lead the conversation to engage the group in feedback.

The workshop will include a mix of deep-dive discussions, networking opportunities, and 3 slots focused on workshopping thematic projects. Each project session will be 75 minutes long. Multiple sessions will run in parallel so there will be a total of 9-15 themes, but each participant will only be responsible for attending 3. Within each group, a Facilitator will open with an introduction to each featured project before inviting Collaborators to share responses and suggestions.

Participants will also have the opportunity for informal networking and thematic conversations throughout the day.

How to Apply

If you are interested in attending this workshop, you may either 1) propose a project to be workshopped (Project Lead); or 2) describe how your expertise and experience makes you a relevant participant (Collaborator). If you select “Either,” please submit your project summary only: you will be considered for participation even if your project isn’t selected for the workshop.

Please note: A maximum of 2 co-leads may apply using the same project summary, and must apply separately. Thank you!

By March 1, please submit the following information here:

  1. First and last name, affiliation, role, link to bio or work, discipline (key words/subjects), career stage, sector, location, contact email, and pronouns [optional].
  2. Type of application.
  3. If applying as a Project Lead or Either, in 500 words or less, tell us about your project. How does it surface something new about the digital economy? How does it attend to issues of racial capitalism, broadly defined? Give us a sense of what stage of development your project is at, any planned methodologies and formats and how this workshop can be helpful. We expect many academic research projects, but also welcome work in alternative formats that provides new insight on these economies. (OR)
  4. If applying as a Collaborator, in 250 words or less, tell us why you want to be a part of this conversation. What would make you a great contributor to shaping in-progress projects about the digital economy? We welcome researchers, practitioners, activists, policymakers, and others who are able to offer new perspectives on scholarships.
  5. Confirm you can meet event deadlines if selected.
  6. Link to 1 project or writing (yours or others) that everyone interested in this domain should know about. [Optional]

Key Dates

By 11:59 p.m. ET:

Application Deadline                                               Mon, March 1, 2021
Selection Notifications                                            Mon, March 15, 2021
Revised Project Summary + RSVP Deadline   Wed, March 24, 2021
Project Draft Deadline                                             Fri, April 16, 2021
Project Group Assignments                                   Mon, May 3, 2021
Workshop                                                                     Thu, May 20, 2021

Questions? Contact [email protected].