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Contracting change: an ethnographic study of affirmative action, entrepreneurship, and bureaucracy in Atlanta, Georgia

Griffin Strong, Imani (2020) Contracting change: an ethnographic study of affirmative action, entrepreneurship, and bureaucracy in Atlanta, Georgia. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Atlanta, Georgia is often referred to as the “Black Mecca” for economic advancement. This is due, in part, to its much lauded public contracting affirmative action program. This thesis is concerned with the current realities of the program as it is administered by bureaucrats on the ground, navigated by African American entrepreneurs, and lobbied by contractor advocacy groups. Grounded in twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork (September 2017-September 2018), this work contributes to a growing body of anthropological research in bureaucracy, policy, and entrepreneurship and expands the discipline’s engagement with racial identities. In it, I contend that race is central to the experience and imposition of audit, bureaucratic administration, and entrepreneurship in the United States. The thesis tracks the emotional and ethical labour of bureaucrats as they attempt to administer restitutive bureaucracy under increasingly neoliberal checks and controls. It attends to African American entrepreneurs’ self-fashioning as ethical capitalist and racial subjects within the program and addresses the networks and boundary-making practices of the same. Finally, the thesis addresses the role of political nostalgia and memory in actors’ engagement with bureaucratic administrations, and the role of racial kinship in the ethical orientations of administrators and entrepreneurs alike.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Imani Griffin Strong
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Laura, Bear and Deborah, James

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