Patchwork Leviathan: Interstitial Bureaucracy and Statecraft in Ghana

Saturday, June 25, 2016: 4:15 PM-5:45 PM
126 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Erin McDonnell, Notre Dame, South Bend, IN
States have great internal variation in their administrative
capacities and organizational cultures. Even in states regarded as
weak, Weberian-style bureaucracy flourishes in interstices—relatively
distinct niches embedded within sometimes-adverse dominant patronage
and patrimonial institutions. This paper theorizes the general
institutional consequences of interstitiality, with particular
application to the institution of Weberian bureaucracy, wherein
interstitial insiders experience the bureaucratic ethos as an active
cultural and institutional project requiring heroic commitment.
Interstices incubate distinctive values, practices, and cultural tools
that are unconventional in the larger state administrative apparatus.
An interstitial approach underscores how fragile and deviant Weberian
bureaucracy can be when non-dominant, analyzing how niches cultivate
divergent practices, cope with interruptions from the surrounding
environment, and protect the fragile bureaucratic ethos.  Using
interview, observational, and documentary data from cases in the
Ghanaian central state, I illustrate five ways interstitial
embeddedness alters the conventional characteristics of Weberian