Facilitating Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in Traditionally Marginalized Communities: Unpacking the Nature of SME Responsibility through Feminist Epistemology

Call for papers for: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Guest Editors

Harry Van Buren ([email protected][email protected])
University of New Mexico/American University of Beirut
Charlotte Karam ([email protected])
American University of Beirut
Fida Alfiouni ([email protected])
American University of Beirut


Much of the research on corporate social responsibility—as well as on related concepts such as corporate social responsiveness, corporate social performance, and corporate citizenship—has focused on large multinational corporations (MNC/MNCs). While important, there are other business types and locales for which discussions of responsibility have not been as well theorized and studied. Small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SME/SMEs) in a variety of contexts face different sorts of expectations related to the nature and content of their responsibilities than do MNCs. SMEs may, in turn, respond to such expectations differently than do MNCs because of differences in (1) their stakeholder sets, (2) the expectations their stakeholders have of these businesses, (3) the nature of the social contract, (4) business resources and capabilities associated with responding to stakeholder expectations, (5) the constitution of the national business systems within or across which they function, and (6) their values and goals.
This means, of course, that lessons about business responsibility gleaned from the study of MNCs may not always be generalizable to other businesses and contexts. This is particularly the case for SMEs owned, run by, and serving marginalized groups, including women, people living in conflict zones, and members of minority racial and ethnic groups. We argue that feminist epistemologies are particularly important to conceptualizing business responsibility generally, but especially to SMEs with a nexus to traditionally marginalized communities. Building on a growing body of research that explores the feminist perspectives on MNC and big-business responsibility (e.g., Grosser & Moon, 2005, 2019; McCarthy, 2017; Ozkazanc-Pan, 2018), in this special issue we are seeking out scholarship with a specific focus on feminist perspectives on the role and experiences of responsible SME practices and operations (e.g., Karam & Jamali, 2017; Spence, 2016).
With feminist epistemology as the base, our aim is to provide space for local knowledges related to SME responsibility, grounded in feminist epistemological approaches to knowing well and knowing responsibly (Code, 1987, 1991). To privilege local knowledges, we follow the recommendations of the transnational feminist theorist Chandra Talpade Mohanty, who calls for comparative dialogues that emphasize “relations of mutuality, co-responsibility, and common interests” (Mohanty, 2003: 521). Although Mohanty (2003) was specifically referring to the building of transnational feminist solidarity movements, her work can usefully (albeit controversially) be applied to SMEs’ notions of responsibility in MNC-dominated capitalism. Therefore, we strive to unpack the social and political locatedness of our knowledge about SMEs’ responsibilities, as opposed to striving to put forward claims of objective and generalizable knowledge that are disconnected from local realities, cultures, and ways of knowing (Doucet, 2018). Our focus is thus on the perceptions of the social and economic processes shaping notions of SME responsibilities in these communities, thereby highlighting dialogue as a space for the narratives of relationality and “common difference” as opposed to individuals and separation of businesses from their communities (see Mohanty, 2003: 522). Such research can simultaneously illuminate the micropolitics of placed-based consciousness and the oppressive macropolitics of global capital and markets.
Research methods tied to feminist epistemologies often aim trace the sociality of knowledge with emergent knowledge seen as community-based and as the interconnected product of values, beliefs, experiences, power structures, and judgments (Harding, 2000). Adopting feminist epistemological methods leads researchers to bring multiple voices and perspectives  to the table, particularly from underprivileged and oppressed communities, and to pay particular attention to the intersection and interconnectedness of multiple power dynamics within and among those communities (Hill Collins, 2000) that privilege certain notions of responsibility over others (Harding, 1993). It can also lead researchers to reflect on how privileging certain kinds of (non-situated) knowledge upholds particular structures and patterns of everyday industry and business practices, as well as particular groups and communities as the “worthier” receivers of the benefits of responsible business.
Our aim is to target research focusing on SME responsibilities in a broad spectrum of geographic locations within which they serve marginalized communities. For example, papers exploring perspectives of SME responsibilities in immigrant communities in the USA/Canada, or on the border between the USA and Mexico, or in Eritrean refugee settlements, would be welcome. We would also be interested in the perspectives of women-owned businesses toward their communities and nations, wherever they may be. Our interest is to explore how these SMEs view, understand, and enact responsibilities of all sorts, including equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) practices. We hope that this special issue will animate research that addresses the ways in which feminist epistemology surfaces important themes in the nature of SME responsibility as well as how co-location in marginalized communities affects it. We also hope that submissions will address practice-related implications. We are open to a variety of research paradigms, including normative research, qualitative and quantitative methods, case studies, and action research. Potential topics for papers include, but are not limited to:
1.    How do businesses owned by individuals from traditionally marginalized communities affect the ways in which they conceptualize and respond to expectations for responsible business behavior?
2.    Are businesses owned by individuals from traditionally marginalized communities more responsible and inclusive than other businesses, and why or why not?
3.    What forms of localized knowledge are most useful for understanding the nature of business responsibility?
4.    What can feminist theories contribute to our understandings on SME responsibility?

Manuscript Submission

Submissions Manuscripts should be submitted online by 30th April, 2021 and should follow the Submission Guidelines available on the journal's page. Please note that all submissions will be subject to the standard EDI double-blind review process.

Please select Special issue and submit under the title Facilitating Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion in Traditionally Marginalized Communities: Unpacking the Nature of SME Responsibility through Feminist Epistemology.
Submissions will open on November 15, 2020.
For questions regarding this special issue, please contact any of the Guest Editors at the email addresses above.


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