Enterprising refugee women : Analyzing postfeminist governmentality in an organizational context
Dlaske, K., & Schilling, K. (2023). Enterprising refugee women : Analyzing postfeminist governmentality in an organizational context. Gender, Work and Organization, 30(5), 1513-1532. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12979
Published inGender, Work and Organization
© 2023 the Authors
This study examines a model project initiated by a German Federal Ministry in the middle of the vast increase in forced migration to Germany after 2015. The project aimed at facilitating the integration of female refugees into German society by way of ‘empowering’ them to become self-employed. A business counseling agency with a feminist orientation was commissioned to design and run the project. Interpellating refugee women as subjects of entrepreneurial self-actualization to enact gender equality, the project embodies a tangible example of postfeminist governmentality. Combining recent research on postfeminism with analytics of governmentality, the study directs its analytical gaze to the work of governing. This opens up a twofold perspective: it enables us to investigate the operation of governmental power in relation to its envisioned subjects, and how this power acts upon the subjects tasked with the work of governing in the contemporary organizational context. Drawing on qualitative interviews and documentary materials within an “ethnographic imaginary”, we examine, first, the assemblage of elements that made up the fabric of postfeminist governmentality in the governmental intervention at hand and what happened when the governmental attempts “hit the ground” met—and failed to meet—the diverse bodies of the envisioned participants. This perspective illustrates how the logic of postfeminist governmentality radically failed when it came to differences deriving from the structural positioning of the women, but also indicates moments of agency and resistance and the perspectives for those who were able and willing to access the offered subject position. Second, the analysis shows how this failure affected the women involved less than the female project manager who was to bear the consequences. In this respect, the analysis sheds light on the amount of practical and emotional work that the task of rendering the project nevertheless ‘a success’ required, the “hidden injuries” this work involved, and how this work ultimately led to a reaffirmation of the logic of postfeminist governmentality. The study contributes to understandings of the gendered operation of governmental power in and through contemporary organizations and in the organization of labor. ...
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