Advocacy and Anti-Racism: How Institutions Shape Organizational Responses to Racially Biased Policing in France and the United States
Hirsch, Nicole Arlette
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractRacially biased policing has captured the attention of citizens across the globe. This preoccupation with racial justice and policing is not unique the United States; these questions are on the rise across the Atlantic as well. This dissertation investigates how national context shapes efforts to address racially biased policing by advocacy organizations. Comparing France and the United States, I focus on the role of institutions, examining how race, the nonprofit sector, political institutions, and legal institutions constrain and enable the strategies and tactics of anti-racist advocacy organizations.
Chapter Three makes the case that analyzing the vast and varied work of advocacy organizations in terms of organizational fields is uniquely helpful for understanding how organizations are constrained and enabled by their field positions. I argue that organizations vary in their field position according to resources in the form of material and social capital. The comparative model illuminates the significant impact of inter-field and intra-field relations. In France, where the nonprofit sector is comparatively weak—more dependent upon the state, and less able to engage legal institutions—advocacy organizations are required to pool resources. As such, we observe an exchange of resources, particularly economic and social capital, across the organizational field. Additionally, organizations of different forms and in different field clusters engage in overlapping strategies and tactics, signaling looser boundaries between organizational forms. In the United States, where there is a relatively strong nonprofit sector, collaboration and resource exchanges are less imperative. Instead, we observe more rigid boundaries in terms of organizational activities (qua strategies and tactics). In addition, the organizations that are best poised to lead the fight against racially biased policing are those that possess significant amounts of both economic and social capital.
Chapter Four considers the political context by examining how and when organizational actors perceive political opportunities, or a lack thereof. I argue that organizational actors act strategically, and as such, are keenly attuned to identifying the ripest moments for strategic action. These moments represent periods of perceived political opportunity. I identify three main frames of perceived political opportunity: times of political lull, political salience, and political intensity. During times of political lull, advocacy organizations are relatively inactive. During such moments, organizational actors attempt to identify strategies that will create opportunities. When organizational actors perceive a moment as being characterized by political intensity, their activities are largely reactive, responding to the immediate needs of their community or constituents. During periods of political salience, organizations are most likely to pursue strategic action. I suggest that perceptions of political opportunity depend on a variety of phenomena, including intra-field dynamics, transformative events, and political structures. Moreover, the data show that organizational actors do not always perceive a particular event or chronological moment in an identical fashion. I contend that the institutions that advocacy organizations seek to target as well as the communities they serve powerfully shape the ways in which they perceive a given period as politically opportune.
In Chapter Five I examine how advocacy organizations establish racial ground rules that resonate with national ideologies of race. I argue that advocacy organizations draw on what I coin as cultural repertoires of race. These are the cultural symbols of race that are distributed unevenly across contexts. In both countries, we observe organizational actors employing strikingly similar race-based and race-blind tactics. In both France and the United States, advocacy organizations employ the race-neutral tactics of protests or marches and policy to regulate police practices. Organizational actors in both countries also pursue race-conscious tactics of collecting data to document racial disparities and litigation to prove racial discrimination. The data demonstrate that French organizational actors systematically extract race from organizational strategies and tactics, while American organizational actors infuse race into the same set of strategies and tactics.
At a time when demands for racial justice are rising and America has just elected to the presidency a candidate who has openly made racist and xenophobic statements while France avoided the election of its far-right populist candidate, it is essential that scholars understand how organizational advocates resist and respond to racism. This comparative study allows for careful analysis of how institutions shape anti-racist logics and strategies of advocacy organizations. More specifically my dissertation considers how organizational fields shape strategy, how national repertoires of race lead to the decoupling discourse from strategy, and how organizational actors perceive opportunities.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:40046570
- FAS Theses and Dissertations