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'Whose name's on the awning?' Gender, entrepreneurship and the American diner

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While, in recent years, women-owned businesses have become increasingly common, entrepreneurship itself remains a deeply gendered institution, and one that is constructed through everyday practice rooted in space and place. The purpose of the present study is to explore the woman-owned diner as a distinct environment in and through which configurations of gender and entrepreneurship are mutually constituted, socially enacted, and spatially defined. Drawing upon a case study of a present-day diner in Worcester, Massachusetts, I trace the life narratives of two working-class women through their emergence as entrepreneurs in the diner industry. I reflect upon the distinctive space of the woman-owned diner as it is produced through the interaction between the gendered body-subjects of women owners, the social meaning of 'feeding work', and the spatial character of the diner institution. Through the gendered social practice of diner ownership, these two women have overcome substantial social, economic and geographic obstacles to their independence and worked to bridge the divide between the value of public and private work. Building on existing scholarship in the field, this study demonstrates the potential for women's agency through everyday practice as business owners, to create new spaces and alternative means of practicing both gender and entrepreneurship.

Keywords: diners; entrepreneurship; feeding work; gender; motherhood

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of International Development, Community and Environment, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA,

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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