Md. Kamrul Hasan, Texas A&M University – Commerce

Identity construction and legitimacy of activist entrepreneurs: The case of Madam C.J. Walker

Abstract: Historically, individuals have found ways to influence legislation against social injustice and/or to promote social causes. In recent years, activist entrepreneurs have taken on a more protagonist role in addressing social issues/concerns and have increasingly appeared in social media. Unfortunately, given the nascent stage of activism research, the term still lacks a formalized definition and discriminant validity relative to other similar terms such as corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship. Furthermore, little is known as to how activist entrepreneurs articulate their story to formulate/create a social identity that can be viewed as legitimate to society. This is particularly important because the motivation for activism is not transparent and altruism can be easily confounded with the desire for social and/or economic power. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to formalize a definition of activism and; 2) to propose a model that explains how social identity of activist entrepreneurs results in the legitimization of the entrepreneur and their cause. Towards that end, we analyze the historic case of Madan CJ Walker and show how she was an activist entrepreneur who fought for ‘her people’ while becoming the first African American Woman millionaire in the United States. To develop this argument, we analyze the historic case of Madam C. J. Walker to show how activist entrepreneurs constructs their social identity and legitimacy. However, despite the increased importance of activism in recent literature and social media, there is a lack of individuals seeking to impact social causes have taken a more protagonist role in recent years in the form of activist entrepreneurs.

Presentation Author(s):
Md. Kamrul Hasan*

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