Since 2019, Alena Thiel is a post-doc at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. She obtained her PhD in 2016 from the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law, University of Aberdeen. She has previously been a research fellow at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies (2011-2017), the University of Leipzig (2017) and the University of Bayreuth (2018-2019), and has carried out research fellowships at the African Studies Centre Leiden (2017), Sciences Po Paris (2018), and the University of the Witwatersrand/WiSER (2018). Her projects have been awarded funding within the framework of the DFG priority programme SPP1448 (2017), the DAAD PRIME/EU Marie Curie Actions programme (2018-2019) and recently, the German Research Foundation’s individual research grant scheme (2019-2022). She is Associate Editor of Africa Spectrum.
Alena Thiel has published on Ghanaian and Senegalese urban marketspaces, mainly focussing on the workings and impacts of entrepreneurial mobilities between China and West Africa. Among other issues, she has analysed the impact of transnational circulations of ordering technologies (such as business models) on employment relations, gendered notions of urban space, and modes of intergenerational capital transfer. She has also published on the legal pluralism of ordering institutions in the Ghanaian market place, as well as transnational translations of citizenship and activism.
Her current work is concerned with the role of (biometric) identification technologies in Ghana. Taking the promise of the current, digital “data revolution” of the Ghanaian population data system as a starting point, the project “How Democracies Know: Identification technologies and quantitative analyses of development in Ghana” explores how Ghanaian policy makers integrate previously isolated, administrative population registers for new, interoperability-based applications aimed at improving the timeliness and coverage of population data for internationally standardized reporting.
Alena Thiel recently published ‘Biometric identification technologies and the Ghanaian data revolution’ in The Journal of Modern African Studies.
Current research themes: Identification; Data infrastructures; Measurement policies, ‘governance by numbers’; Technicization of citizenship; Sociology of quantification; Anthropology of the state; Theories of travelling models, translation and adaptation