Erin Metz McDonnell
Kellogg Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Notre Dame
erin DOT mcdonnell AT nd DOT edu
My research is theoretically ambitious but empirically grounded, working at the intersection of Organizational, Political, Cultural, and Economic Sociologies. My work focuses on how social organization affects economic outcomes, from consumer groups to administrative capacity in African states. I have published in generalist journals in both Sociology and Political Science, including the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Comparative Political Studies. My research has garnered awards from numerous ASA sections, including theory, development, consumption, and (OOW) organizations, occupations, & work.
My current work on state organizational capacity and development observes that states have a high degree of internal variation in their administrative capacities and organizational cultures. This has led to two lines of inquiry in my current book project. First, what explains the emergence of effective bureaucratic practice? I find that even in conventionally identified "weak states", effective, quasi-meritocratic public administration flourishes in “interstices”— relatively distinct niches embedded within dominant patronage and patrimonial institutions. My interview and ethnographic work in the Ghanaian state reveal how such interstitial bureaucratic cultures employ practices that are different from poor-performing peers. Second, what are the consequences of such internal variation of bureaucratic practice? My book manuscript takes a mixed-methods approach to analyzing the causes and consequences of this internal variation in bureaucratic quality, from interviews, participant observation, and comparative historical methods, painting a rich portrait of the birth of bureaucracy in predominantly neopatrimonial states.