Carrie Gates | November 16, 2018
Plenty of scholars study governmental problems and failures in developing nations. Erin McDonnell is interested in what’s going right.
McDonnell, the Kellogg Assistant Professor of Sociology at Notre Dame, is examining certain pockets of government in Ghana and other countries to determine how they are succeeding.
“If we open up the government and think of it not as a singular entity but as lots of small, moving pieces, we can see that there are parts of those governments that work incredibly well,” she said. “Despite a long list of challenges, some Ghanaians on the ground are making it work. To understand how they manage to do that is really important.”
McDonnell, who came to Notre Dame in 2012, has spent a total of almost two years in Ghana conducting fieldwork for her upcoming book, tentatively titled Patchwork Leviathan: Subcultures of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States.
Her work has already garnered three awards from the American Sociological Association for her article, “The Patchwork Leviathan: How Pockets of Bureaucratic Governance Flourish Within Institutionally Diverse Developing States.” Published in the American Sociological Review in 2017, the article received awards from ASA’s Theory section, Organizations, Occupations & Work section, and Sociology of Development section.
“Practically speaking, you always hope that your research can inform, can help solve a problem. If we could think about ways to enable the flourishing of more of these pockets of effectiveness, elsewhere in Ghana and outside the country, I think that’s the high-end dream."
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