Mini-conference on Race, Organizations, and the Organizing Process

2017 ESS Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, February 23-26

When researchers analyze race and organizations they primarily do so at the individual level. A person’s racial categorization influences their organizational experiences, such as by affecting their chances of accessing and receiving adequate employment, education, and healthcare. A body of sociological evidence confirms that organizations produce inequality or systematic disparities between racial groups. In particular, all else being equal, Whites have far better experiences and outcomes with the organizations – firms, schools, hospitals, etc. – that we have come to depend upon for our livelihood than racial minorities.

Though important, this individual-level focus limits our ability to understand the intersection of race and organizations to its fullest extent. This mini-conference represents an attempt to understand race as a property that also operates at the organizational level.

There have been few efforts to conceive of race as a characteristic that organizations also possess, or at the very least a characteristic with which organizations must contend. In the United States especially, this oversight belies our history and the reality that many organizations were started with explicitly racial goals (e.g., Historically Black Colleges’ missionary focus to educate Black Americans) and at times decidedly racist practices (e.g., White Citizens Councils’ missionary zeal to prolong racial segregation). Furthermore, this neglects how we already classify organizations in our everyday thinking. For instance, The New York Times and Slate are considered “mainstream” media organizations whereas Ebony and The Root are considered Black media organizations.

Consequently, we cannot adequately speak to how race affects organizations, markets, or institutions with the same confidence that we can for people. This mini-conference brings together a group of scholars to interrogate the relationship between race and every aspect of the organizing process such as the founding of organizations, the organizational pursuit of human, financial, or political resources, organizational choices regarding strategic orientation and structural configurations, the role of institutional logics that saturate organizations, industries, and markets with racialized ideologies, etc. Scholars are encouraged to consider such questions as:

  • What does “race” mean when extended beyond people? To understand how race affects organizations and the organizing process, do we need to develop new definitions of this concept?
  • How does race become infused into organizational life? What processes lead an organization to become identified with one racial group as opposed to another? For example, what makes a historically black college, “black”, or alternatively, what makes a traditionally white college, “white”? Is it the strategies chosen, the people served, the cultural or political orientation, etc.? How does race structure economic, political, and cultural life? How does race affect the organization of institutions, markets, and industries?This mini-conference will consist of 3 sessions (12 papers total). It will ultimately serve as an incubator for an edited volume on this topic.

Please direct all inquiries to Melissa Wooten (mwooten@soc.umass.edu).  Authors must submit their abstracts of no more than 250 words through the ESS online abstract submission system (https://www.meetingsavvy.org/ess[u111025.ct.sendgrid.net).  In the “Submission Details” window, select “Paper” for “Type of Submission,” and select keyword “miniconference: race and organizations” for “Select the topic area that best describes your submission.”  The deadline for submissions is October 15.

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