Patricia Banks. Diversity Capital: How Cultural Patronage Shapes Corporate Identity

Monday, April 22, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Patricia A. Banks,  April 22, 2019 – 2:00-3:30 p.m.

Diversity Capital: How Cultural Patronage Shapes Corporate Identity

Race and cultural capital scholarship demonstrates how culture is used by individuals to signal their racial identity. Yet it overlooks instances of organizational racial signaling via culture. My case demonstrates how black cultural patronage (e.g. gifts and sponsorships for black cultural institutions and initiatives such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial),as well as ethnic cultural patronage more broadly, function as forms of diversity capital. I define diversity capital as cultural practices and values that allow organizations to solve problems and leverage opportunities related to race and ethnicity and other social differences. Using content analysis of corporate public relations documents, I show that one way that black cultural patronage operates as a form of diversity capital is its use in communicating that businesses value diversity and are committed and connected to African Americans. By applying insights about culture and racial signaling among individuals to organizations, this analysis advances theory on race and cultural capital. It also advances theory on race and organizations. More specifically, while scholarship on race and organizations asserts that organizations engage in behaviors to maintain an appearance of inclusivity, it has largely neglected how cultural practices play this role. Practically, as multi-million dollar fundraising efforts are underway to support ethnic cultural initiatives such as building the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina and the National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., it is especially critical to develop greater understanding of how ethnic cultural patronage allows businesses to do good while doing well.

Patricia A. Banks is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Mount Holyoke college.  She received her Ph.D at Harvard University and undergraduate degree at Spelman.  Her research focuses on the determinants, consequences, and meanings of cultural consumption and the processes underlying the emergence and growth of cultural markets.  Her book, Represent: Art and Identity Among the Black Upper-Middle Class (Routledge 2010), is an empirical and theoretical analysis of art collecting as a practice of black identity construction.  Her research has also appeared in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, Cultural Sociology, Poetics, and Qualitative Sociology. Banks has been a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow and Non-Resident Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research (now the Hutchins Center) at Harvard University, and received fellowships or grants from institutions such as the UNCF/Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the American Association of University Women. She is also the creator of the African American Museums Database (AAMD) which is a digital archive that allows researchers and other users to search for over 300 African American museums and related organizations across the United States. She is visiting at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2018-2019.