About the Project

"Interpreneurship" is an interdisciplinary project that seeks to understand the meanings and practices of entrepreneurship across borders.

In the global village of the twenty-first century, Austrians continue to encounter the United States, its culture, its history, its politics, and its people with a seemingly accepted lack of intercultural literacy, ranging from boldly proclaimed opinions to a mix of vacillating misgivings. Colloquial proclamations bespeaking European elitism such as "Nothing good has come from America" or the patriotically inflected "This is not America; we are here in Austria, after all" are not reserved to an imagined generation of grandparents. Rather, they speak to broadly held cultural attitudes toward cultural artifacts and practices emanating from the United States. This aspect also affects a pillar of the American identity and thus a key to understanding Americans' view of the world--the American entrepreneurial spirit. To think and act entrepreneurially is a core component of American national identity. Those who aspire to be successful entrepreneurs receive broad socio-cultural acknowledgment and acclaim. While perceived vulgar and too "common" prior to the turn of the twentieth century, US-American cultural imperialism has ensured that the American entrepreneurial spirit has been viewed as an ideal(ized) practice in large parts of the (Western) world since the end of World War II. Indeed, the contemporary startup craze (after all, little more than the twenty-first-century rendition of the All-American rags-to-riches myth) testifies to the effects of what has largely been a popular-cultural process impacting both the United States and its western sphere of influence.

This project will focus on one particular place in the transnational negotiation of entrepreneurship, the State of Styria. Backed by various interest groups and stakeholders, there is a burgeoning discourse on Styrian entrepreneurship. However, in cultural terms, we argue, Styrian entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurial thinking and acting do not bear the same cultural value as they do in the U.S. even though the American entrepreneurial spirit serves as the gold standard and best-practice model for entrepreneurship. Accordingly, entrepreneurship sees itself confronted with a range of issues caused by intercultural miscommunication.

As an antidote to these misunderstandings, this project seeks to conduct intercultural translation work in research, teaching, and outreach activities. Bringing an American studies point of view to a discourse and practice where it has been largely absent, this project proposes a dialog-based approach to helping entrepreneurial actors understand complex identity positions and the values they espouse with a view of enabling them to make more interculturally informed decisions. Renowned linguist Edward Sapir put forth that "[t]he worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached." Seventy years later, digital technologies and rather inexpensive means of global transportation have shrunk our world, or at least the way we perceive it. We are all part of a global market characterized by transnational flows (of labor, capital, goods, etc.). Yet even though the western world may be dominated by U.S.-American popular culture, our world is anything but homogeneous. And despite positioning themselves in opposition to--or at the very least as a European contrast to--the United States, Austrians readily buy and consume American cultural products and thus partake in the flows of the transnational market economy.

As a discipline, American studies in Europe has appreciated the object and subject of its critical scrutiny as a transatlantic dialog. Consequently, American studies is an ideal interdisciplinary intersection for understanding America from a European vantage point as well as viewing the European mosaic composed of diverse regions through an Americanist lens. Thus, the project's overall goal is glocal in terms of studying and engaging with America--and, ultimately, understanding America--within a very specific thematic context and from a decidedly regional perspective as well as to examine the impact of and dialogue with transnational processes on the ground in Styria.