Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Corporate Subjects: Reshaping Governance and Schooling through Corporatized Development in Liberia

In 2016, following the Ebola crisis, Liberia's Ministry of Education partnered with two social investment firms--Social Finance and Absolute Return for Kids--to usher in a new era of corporatized educational reforms and school provision known as the Liberian Educational Advancement Program (LEAP). This partnership attempts to align social and educational policy and development in Liberia with principles of market capitalism through for-profit actors' involvement in educational provision and increased surveillance of labor (teachers) and consumers (students). As corporations increasingly seek to move into roles previously held by the state and by development organizations, and attempt to align and narrow social policy and practice through supposedly value-neutral technologies and evaluations, the question arises, what kinds of governable spaces, subjects, and forms/opportunities of resistance are produced, and how is this reshaping communities' views of the roles and responsibilities of the state and corporations in social development? This 12-month ethnographic study explores how new configurations of power and changing forms and norms of governance materialize and are experienced and remade by communities through a study of a new, corporatized model of social development (LEAP). Studying corporatized development expands social science research on education as a state-led institution by examining how schools, policies, communities and students are re-situated within a corporate apparatus that locates power in a geographically placeless market. It also extends research on the shifting dynamics of the state, and how corporate actors are increasingly invading roles and spaces previously held by the state. In examining the changing logics and technologies of governance deployed by corporate entities and the shifting dynamics of the state in development, this research analyzes social services in post-Ebola Liberia and, by implication, other "post-crisis" states today.