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Presented By: Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies - ICOS

Detroit Hustles Harder: The(Re) Production of Systemic Racism through Organizational Practice

Professor Courtney McCluney Cornel University, School of Industrial & labor Relations

Our relational ethnography of a resource-constrained entrepreneurial ecosystem with changing racial demographics expands the study of systemic racism that emerges in and through organizations. Drawing on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) frameworks, we critically interrogate the relational configuration between entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) and Black women entrepreneurs in Detroit, MI to understand how practices, or everyday activities that constitute organizational life, reinforce racial, gender, and class hierarchies. We implemented a site-based, relational ontology to analyze our qualitative interviews (n = 65) and field observations, which deepened the meaning and enactment of systemic racism in this particular ‘site’. Our data revealed ESOs use of discursive, embodied, and material practices to inform the types and extent of support offered to entrepreneurs in Detroit. Assemblages of these practices maintained or disrupted systemic racism through three key mechanisms: control over resources, relational patterns between residents, and the entrenched power dynamics in the city. Accordingly, we build theoretical knowledge of practices that may inadvertently reproduce racial inequality through adopting critical perspectives of organizations. We provide recommendations for organizations and other social institutions seeking to dismantle systemic racism based on the insights that emerged in our data. Keywords: Black women; entrepreneurs; Critical Race Theory; Intersectionality; Practice Theory
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