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The Entrepreneurial Catch Toward an Analytic of Racial Responsibilization

This article mobilizes an analytic of racial responsibilization to interrogate the contentious logics of risk-taking and risk-making that shape “the urban entrepreneur,” an organizing figure of prisoner reentry workforce development programs in the American city of New Orleans. My ethnographic study explores the fraught relationships between entrepreneurialism and self-actualization by tracing the racialized and racializing evaluations of risk that formerly incarcerated business owners must navigate and negotiate. It uses the illocutionary act of “the pitch” as a performative space to question anti-Blackness within neoliberal capitalism. When refracted through the risk logics of punitive justice institutions, the guiding assumption of the entrepreneur as autonomous, self-actualized agent is fundamentally challenged. For the conjunctively racialized and criminalized, the requirements of entrepreneurialism do not potentiate self-actualization but rather both obscure and re/produce racial histories of dispossession and bondage.