Justice at Work: Towards an Adaptive Workplace
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Why is it that some bodies, but not others, are able to comfortably navigate the workplace? What would it mean to imagine a workplace that allowed all bodies to exist and succeed in it fully? In this thesis, I explore how workplace norms are constructed, what politics and feminist justice theory has to say about it, and why certain performances and not others are accepted in the public sector workplace. Workplaces privilege “professionalism” scripts based on white, male performance and see white, male bodies as the somatic norm of public sector, salary work. These rigid behavior and bodily expectations construct an uneven playing field for success at work based on embodiment and performance. The Urban Scholars Program challenges how workplaces currently function by creating pathways for students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to enter the public sector in the Twin Cities. I analyze the successes and opportunities for improvement of this program in order to discern what lessons can apply to creating a just workplace. I pose that while programs like Urban Scholars are important to increase diversity in the public sector, they train people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to enter the workplace as is. This approach overlooks the unique gendered and racialized embodiments of Scholars. In order to create a truly inclusive and just workplace, the workplace itself must change based on the bodies that compose it. It must become an adaptive workplace, meaning that workplace norms and behavior expectations become more fluid and constantly reform themselves. From this investigation, I hope a more inclusive and equitable workplace can emerge.