Elizabeth K. Eger
University of Colorado at Boulder

Complicating the Researcher as Privileged Ally in Scholarship on Difference, Power, and Organizing

Joining a growing focus on difference in organizational research (Acker, 2006; Allen, 2011; Mumby, 2011; Schilt, 2011), this presentation considers qualitative researcher dilemmas for those who occupy positions of privilege in relationship to their participants while simultaneously studying difference and power in organizing. This presentation complicates the possibility of a researcher as a “privileged ally” and questions: How do we ethically conduct critical and qualitative research on difference and organizing while accounting for and disrupting our privileged positions?

My proposed QRM presentation comes off the heals of a provocative conversation at the National Communication Association (NCA) conference in Washington, DC, in November 2013, where I organized and presented with leading organizational communication scholars about the concept of “privileged allies.” I framed privileged allies as those in powerful positions who impact organizational, institutional, and occupational change efforts around difference and discrimination in the contemporary working world. Through my panel design, scholars shared brief vignettes of their research both with privileged allies—where the participants occupy position(s) of privilege (i.e., a colleague and my research interviews about powerful white male influencers in technical organizations advocating for increasing women and people of color in the IT field)—and as privileged allies—where the researcher occupies position(s) of privilege (i.e., research with disability rights organization as a researcher who is temporarily able bodied and minded). At QRM, I will extend my conceptualization of qualitative researchers as privileged allies and explore the increased complexities when privilege and power is a focus of the research itself for scholars theorizing organizations and difference. I will begin by addressing these complexities more broadly before offering my ongoing dissertation research as an application and anchor for conversation with the audience.

At QRM, one goal I have is to make visible the invisibility of researcher privilege in all of our ongoing projects and to invite all management researchers to be open to the important messiness of participants’ critiques of our research. I follow Peggy McIntosh’s conceptualization of privilege as being often unaware or unwilling to recognize the advantages we enjoy. Moreover, many folks with different intersecting privileges are unwilling to “grant that they are over-privileged, even though they grant that [others] are disadvantaged” (p. 1).  In other words, I will prompt audience members to consider their own subjectivities and privileges in their current management research no matter what their topic of inquiry, such as research as profit or understanding politics of conducting, analyzing, and sharing research. In this sense, my presentation adds to methodological discussions on the crisis of representation (Clifford & Marcus, 1986) by positioning research partiality as a set of political decisions researchers make. I value the complex negotiations of power and subjectivity of researcher and participant. As Jaggar and Wisor elucidate, “What people are willing to report about their lives on a particular occasion, how they frame those reports, and how their listeners hear and reinterpret those reports are always infused with gender, culture, and power” (Under Review, p. 9). I not only follow feminist critiques of whose story is being told and valued (see Borland, 1991) but also particularly consider how the responsibilities of accounting for power and privilege become magnified in research about difference organizing.

My dissertation offers an important heuristic of these complexities. I am studying work injustice of transgender people—those “who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender” (Stryker, 2008, p. 1). I am conducting this research as a cisgender person—as someone who does not identify as transgender but as someone who still chooses my gender identity. I am invested in transgender work justice as an ally because I want to explore stories and life experiences of the large numbers of transpeople who lack access to work.  As Grant et al. (2011) report in the first US work-life survey of transpeople, 90% of transgender people experience harassment and discrimination at work and 47% encountered adverse job outcomes (e.g., firing or promotion denial).  There was nearly double the rate of unemployment for trans people than the general population, which rose up to quadruple the rate for trans people of color.

My dissertation not only explores transpeople’s experiences of and triumph over work discrimination via national interviews but also centralizes in an organizational ethnography of a western United States transgender outreach center where I am theorizing: What is at stake when an entire organization relies on challenging normative US identities, practices, and structures as its key mission? In understanding difference organizing at this center, I constantly consider my role and power as a cisgender researcher, my privilege in this context, and my profits from this research. As a way to make this privilege visible, I will share at least two examples of my cisgender privilege with QRM attendees. First, I will ask them to consider their own experiences of cisgender privilege and/or transphobia by using Killerman (2011)’s list of cisgender privilege, including prompts like:  “You can reasonably assume that you will not be denied services at a hospital, bank, or other institution because the staff does not believe the gender marker on your ID card to match your gender identity” or “Having your gender as an option on a form.” I will then narrate my experience with one transgender person from the center who openly critiqued me as a cisgender person doing this project, asking: “So, you are profiting off of trans people then?” I will share this (and other stories if time permits) to consider the ways that marking my privilege in my research opens me to critiques that I believe are important to the project and my ultimate theorizing of difference and organizing.

My hope is that this presentation invites discussion with audience members about organizing around difference and questions of intersections of researchers and participants’ shared, contested, and contrasting subjectivities. I would end by troubling my own concept of researchers as privileged allies, following Mia McKenzie’s recent call for “No More ‘Allies’.” Instead, McKenzie (2013) offers us the frame: “Currently operating in solidarity with” as an action instead of a noun of ally identity. This frame “describes what a person is doing in the moment. It does not give credit for past acts of solidarity without regard for current behavior. It does not assume future acts of solidarity. It speaks only to the actions of the present.” In this sense, I will end by contesting the privilege of the research ally identity itself with the audience. 

Acker, J. (2006). Inequality Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations. Gender & Society, 20(4), 441–464. doi:10.1177/0891243206289499 Allen, B. J. (2011). Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity (2nd ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press Inc. Borland, K. (1991). “That’s Not What I Said.” Interpretive Conflict in Oral Narrative Research. In S. B. Guck & D. Patai (Eds.), Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (pp. 522–534). New York, NY: Routledge.Clifford, J., & Marcus, G.E. (1986). Writing culture: The poetics and politics of ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press. Grant, J. M., Mottet, L. A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J. L., & Keisling, M. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, Executive Summary (pp. 1–8). Washington, D.C: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved from transequality.org/PDFs/Executive_Summary.pdf Jaggar, A. M., & Wisor, S. (Under Review). Feminist methodology in practice: Learning from a research project. Killerman, S. (2011, November). 30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege. It’s Pronounced METROsexual. Retrieved from itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/ McIntosh, P. (1989). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Peace and Freedom. McKenzie, M. (2013, September 30). No More “Allies.” Black Girl Dangerous. Retrieved from www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/no-more-allies/ Mumby, D. K. (Ed.). (2011). Reframing Difference in Organizational Communication Studies: Research, Pedagogy, Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Schilt, K. (2011). Just One of the Guys?: Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Daniella Fjellström
Department of Business Studies,
Uppsala University, Sweden

David S. A. Guttormsen
Department of Politics and International Studies,
University of Warwick, UK

The Silent Concept in Qualitative Research

Researchers have frequently faced challenges relating to gaining appropriate access to data during qualitative field research. Access to data represents an immensely critical phase, as it determines the success or failure of the research endeavour. Being located in the field often intensifies the challenges encountered and may potentially raise the levels of stress, vulnerability, risk and uncertainty during the process of securing ‘access’. These difficulties may evolve from, for example, time and financial constraints in a cultural environment often unfamiliar to the researcher. Concurrently, field researchers often accumulate a vast range of skills and knowledge whilst in the field. We argue that access is a subjective concept that influences how we conduct research in organizational life and our relationships with our research participants.

The multifaceted issue of ‘access’ has received little attention on the research agenda, especially in the field of International Business (IB) – the field where the authors have conducted their research. A plausible explanation for this relates to researchers being positioned outside the “objectivists’ ontological awareness-span” in mainstream, positivist-dominated IB research. This paper is devoted to this nexus: the lack of focus on ‘access’ issues, and the rich sources of acquired, but mostly unveiled field experiences, relevant to IB and management research programmes and beyond. However, both aspiring and experienced field researchers in academia and management consultancy can benefit greatly from the latter by enhancing their knowledge base through engagement in fruitful discussion and self-reflection when exposed to other researchers’ experiences.

‘Access’ is a highly personal activity. Factors such as emotions, culture, intersubjectivity, social and language skills, can substantially influence success or failure in securing ‘access’. The entanglement of the researcher in the actual ‘access’-seeking process is an important matter to discuss due to the vast range of ways in which this involvement may influence the outcome. The findings in this paper reveal that ‘access’ can be understood as a social phenomenon in addition to being a multi-level and multi-dimensional conceptual term.
This paper posits the following research question: How did the authors experience and tackle challenges in terms of gaining appropriate ‘access’ during their field research in China? The authors argue that there is a significant need to disseminate acquired field experiences, in particular those relating to ‘access’ as part of the interplay between the researcher’s persona, the purpose of the study, and the contextuality of the research. Furthermore, this effort facilitates enhanced transparency in researchers’ field practices, which may result advantageously in enhanced, rigorous, self-reflexive thinking about the research. Indeed, the aim of this paper is to transfer the experiences gained from the authors’ longitudinal, qualitative, research endeavours, such as challenges faced, decisions made, and outcomes in regard to ‘access’ issues. The multifaceted issue of ‘access’, can be categorized into various phases, dimensions, and levels (albeit not in a taxonomical sense) as follows: personalized dimension, administrative aspects, physical dimension and socio-cultural dimension.

Despite being a multifaceted issue that is highly influenced by an array of intersubjective and personalized aspects, the critical issue of ‘access’ has received little attention, within business academia. The IB literature is saliently rooted in a positivist research paradigm (see Bate 1997; Buckley & Chapman 1996a, 1996b; Casson 1996; Chapman 1997; Lauring & Guttormsen 2010). In this tradition, where objectivity is adamantly manifested as science proper, it is inevitable that the role of the researcher will be neglected as he or she is assumed to remain aloof from both the research process and the research subjects.

‘Access’ can also be thought of as an epistemological and methodological issue, for example in the pursuit of achieving “methodological fit” (Edmondson & McManus 2007). Consequently, the type and nature of ‘access’ sought by a researcher must be consistent with other internal elements in the research design. However, ‘access’ is also an external factor, the lack of which may hamper the feasibility of the research project itself. As the eminent scholar Geert Hofstede, postulated:

“I mean, if you have an Uncle who is the director of a race course in Hong Kong, you may decide to do a study of race courses. (---) you have access to data nobody else has.” (Carraher 2003, p. 103).

There are consummate exceptions to the silence in IB research concerning ‘access’ issues in the Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business (eds Marschan-Piekkari & Welch 2004). For example, Macdonald and Hellgren (2004) highlight that the organizational and informational hierarchies within firms cannot be assumed to be identical; senior managers may not always possess the most relevant knowledge on a particular topic. Chapman, Gajewska-De Mattos and Antoniou (2004) showcase several issues relating to field researchers’ personal backgrounds and how these inescapably influence intersubjectivity and interpersonal interaction in the field.
Thus, it is argued that increased attention in research methodology to the issue of ‘access’ is relevant and necessary, as both students and academics can draw upon the experiences of other researchers. This may provide them with additional learning, which can be useful in future research endeavours and the execution of projects.

It is advisable to discuss levels of access in empirical research where the multi-faceted nature of ‘access’ is evident. The main contribution of this paper is to institute an academic discussion and share experiences from the field. The paper suggests that it is insufficient to merely refer to the type of ‘access’ that has been secured in academic research papers and methodology textbooks. Providing transparency concerning ‘access’ as multidimensional and as a social phenomenon should be part of any self-reflexive deliberations in order to improve the internal validity, trustworthiness and credibility of the research (see Bryman & Bell 2003; Cunliffe 2002; Easterby-Smith, Thorpe & Jackson 2008; Sinkovics, Penz & Ghauri 2008). Consequently, ‘access’ is a personalized issue that goes beyond mere notions of physicality and technicality, and indeed entails a substantial impact from an administrative and socio-cultural perspective. This applies not only to locating research subjects but also to the ability to engage with information imparted by research subjects, written material and contextuality in the most effective manner.

Rebecca Gill & Joshua B. Barbour
Texas A&M University
Department of Communication
Contact author: rebeccagill@tamu.edu

Subjectivity and the I/We in Team Based Ethnography

Qualitative research, writ large, is deeply rooted in collaborative, team-based methods and approaches. Not only do researchers collaborate on research design and data collection but many have acknowledged how research is itself a “collaboration between those conducting the research and the local actors and contexts they study” (Gershon, 2009, xvii). That said, the collaborative dimension of qualitative methods is not often explicated; research is often published without explicit attention to how collaboration itself played a role in shaping data collection and interpretation (Gershon).

This oversight becomes compounded when considering ethnographic work and its growing involvement in organizational studies (see Czarniawska, 2008; Gill, 2011; McDonald, 2005). The tradition of ethnography, stemming from anthropological efforts, evokes the image of the lone, embedded researcher. Because in this case the ethnographer has admission to largely inaccessible cultures and settings, she takes on the role of the keeper of the keys, becoming the sole collector and interpreter of her own findings. Yet, organizational ethnography of late has begun to dislocate ethnographic studies from its grounding in distant cultures and relocate ethnography as a tool or perspective of data collection in the organizations that surround us in our daily lives (Tracy, 2013; Van Maanen, 2006). This shift challenges the image of the “lone ethnographer” and recognizes ethnography as a perspective or approach that can be adopted across research designs by teams of organizational researchers.

The tradition of organizational study that stems from positivist and interpretive efforts is rich with team-based approaches to data collection and interpretation. Recent attention to organizational ethnography, however, seeks to merge team-based approaches and traditionally individualistic approaches. These efforts raise questions about how researchers negotiate and construct subjectivity not only with participants but also with each other. Subjectivity is compounded in ethnographic team-based research because of the intimate nature of ethnographic work; the researchers must ask not only “who am I in relation to my participants (and vice versa)?,” but must also ask “who am I in relation to my collaborator?” and “who are we, together, as a research team?” These questions are tied, therefore, to how team based ethnographers construct and negotiate identity and difference as a team, as individuals, and alongside research participants, processes that require intensive and careful attention to reflexivity. Moreover, on a more practical level, team-based ethnography raises questions about coordination of methods and data, and the practicalities of meaning making in a team.

Our paper is rooted in our experience of conducting a team-based ethnography of the organizational life and communication practices of regulatory inspectors at US nuclear power plants in 2010-2011 (see Barbour & Gill, 2013). Our data consists of several months of on-site observations of the day-to-day oversight of nuclear safety as it occurred simultaneously at the nuclear power plants and the regional headquarters of the plants, as well as interviews, textual analysis, and a field survey. As a team, we were able to “be in two places at once” during our ethnography, which provided us access to organizational processes and experiences that may not have been possible through more traditional ethnography. At the same time, this research design required attention to how we coordinated our efforts, constructed shared meaning making, and negotiated our identities with each other and our participants. Thus, our paper adopts our findings regarding nuclear inspectors as a springboard to explore issues of subjectivity and difference that were infused in our experience of researchers doing collaborative ethnographic work.

Barbour, J. B. & Gill, R. (2013). Designing communication for the regulation of nuclear power plants: Information management for day-to-day safety oversight at the NRC. Journal of Applied Communication Research. Czarniawska, B. (2007). Shadowing and other techniques for doing fieldwork in modern societies. Copenhagen Business School Press, Liber, Malmo. Gershon, W. S. (2009). Working together in qualitative research: The many faces of  collaboration. In W.S. Gershon (Ed.), The collaborative turn: Working together in qualitative research. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. Gill, R. (2011). The shadow in organizational ethnography: Moving beyond shadowing to spect-acting. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 6, 115-133. McDonald, S. (2005). Studying actions in context: a qualitative shadowing method for organizational research. Qualitative Research, 5, 455-73. Tracy, S. J. (2013). Qualitative research methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact. Malden, MA: Wiley. Van Maanen, J. (2006). Ethnography then and now. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 1, 13-21.

Louise Grisoni & Sylwia Ciuk
Oxford Brookes University, UK.

Investigating institutional work through the lens of lived experiences of organisational change

For more than three decades, the role of institutions in shaping organizational life has been a central concern in organization studies with different emphases and understandings of institutions influencing a range of issues, from the individual actor to the societal levels (Lawrence, Leca and Zilber 2013:1024). The study of institutional work has emerged as a wide-ranging scholarly discussion, which can be broadly separated into research that focuses on how institutional work occurs, who does institutional work, and what constitutes institutional work (Lawrence, Leca and Zilber 2013). More recently, research drawing on institutional work as an orienting concept has begun to develop integrative models of institutional dynamics that allow us to appreciate different varieties of work which are aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions, within the same context (Zietsma & Lawrence, 2010).

Recently institutional researchers have turned attention to questions concerning how individuals experience institutions (Barley 2008; Suddaby 2010; Voronov and Vince 2012). Our research seeks to develop this work and contribute to the developing area concerning the emotional aspects of institutional work. We understand institutional work referring to ‘the purposive action of individuals and organisations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting organizations’ (Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006: 215) which highlights three main aspects: it depicts institutional actors as reflexive, goal-oriented and capable; it focuses on actors’ actions as the centre of institutional dynamics; and it strives to capture structure, agency and their interrelations (Battilana, Leca, & Boxenbaum, 2009). In this paper we are exploring the intersection of institutions and work in organizations and the relationships between individuals and emotional work. Our work focuses on the two-year period relating the implementation of an institution-wide change initiative.

Voronov and Vince (2013) acknowledge that ‘although the emotional underpinnings of institutional work have been acknowledged (e.g. DiMaggio, 1997; Scott 2008), they have not been systematically theorized or empirically investigated’ (2013:58). To this end, our paper presents the initial findings of an exploratory study into the experiences of organisational change of different groups of organisation members, including the change initiators, change agents, as well those who were designed to be ‘on the receiving end’ of change (Bartunek et al., 2006). We hope that the shift in focus will go some way in addressing calls for exploring the emotive side of organisations (e.g. Barner, 2008; Fineman, 1993).  We aim to work with Voronov and Vince’s conceptual framework which has been developed ‘to analyse the interconnection between emotions and the systems of domination that shape the parameters of institutional work’ (2013:58) during the implementation of a major change project. In this way we will highlight which aspects of the framework applied well to the case we researched and identify further nuances for the framework, in particular those relating to understandings of disruption of individual and organisational values and their contribution to the cognitive and emotional investment in institutional order as antecedents of institutional maintenance, disruption or creation.

In our paper we first discuss the place of values in relation to institutional work, next we link values and emotions and consider these in relation to a whole institutional change context. We then introduce our research project, context and methodology which uses a mix of ethnographic interviews and arts based inquiry using collages to access a deeper emotional level of lived experience. Findings are presented and linked back to the conceptual frameworks developed by Voronov and Vince (2013).  We will build on their framework by foregrounding the range of emotional responses to change from the perspective of different stakeholder in the process: managers, staff who were involved in applying for restructured posts and leavers who left as a result of severance or early retirement. Identification of key ‘turning points’ provide the opportunity to focus on the complex multi-layered and often conflicting views of the experience of organisational change. We will conclude with a discussion of reflexive findings, limitations and recommendations for further study.

Jackie Ford, University of Leeds, UK

Nancy Harding, University of Bradford, UK

Mariana Fotaki, University of Warwick, UK.

Going back to our (non-linear) roots: Celtic mythology and narrative methods

Narrative and story-telling methods are popular means of exploring subjectivities and differences in organizational lives. They require that the researcher finds in participants’ accounts a plot that has a beginning, middle and an end.  That is, the researcher must impose linearity upon a non-linear narrative.

In this paper we critique the notion of linearity in story- and narrative-based research. Linearity contradicts the extraordinary messiness and complexities of the quotidian (de Certeau, 1984) and of our memories of our lives. Linearity, we suggest, is part of a Greco-Roman, Christian heritage that elevates the masculine and straight and denigrates the feminised and the bent.  We turn to another European heritage that bequeathed us accounts where realities are non-linear, where plot-lines emerge, meander along and perhaps peter out or wander into another story. These are the ancient Celtic myths of the Mabinogion (from Wales) and Queen Mebh (from Ireland), myths that are united because each recounts in various ways the meetings between Welsh princes and Irish warrior queens while, at home in Wales, women enjoy the last of the dying embers of matriarchal culture. They trace the change from matriarchal, goddess-worshiping cultures to patriarchal cultures that suppress difference while at the same time constituting it. Through returning to these ancient roots (which, we argue, are still to be found informing the ways in which we think and behave) we may find ways of narrating organizational lives in all their complex non-linearity, and thus learn more about the complexities and richness of human life.

To illustrate how this may be done we firstly draw on the ancient Celtic myths that informed our respective childhoods, to develop a method of anti-linear narrative analysis. We illustrate this thorugh analysing the long working life of a woman now in her late-50s. We firstly impose linearity as a way of making sense of her working life, but then track her account following the pathways she takes as she talks about her life and makes sense of herself. In this second account we find magic, illusion, trickery, gods and monsters, all absent from the first account. We conclude by thinking through what it will be to include magic, illusion, etc., as aspects of subjectivities and subject positions.

De Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life. California: Univ. of California Press. Trans. Steven Rendall

Kate Lockwood Harris
Department of Communication
University of Colorado Boulder, USA

James Michael Fortney,
Department Of Communication Studies
Western Washington University, USA

Reflexivity and Disclosure: Methodological Trends in Tension?

What is our relationship to the topics we study?  For scholars interested in matters of difference (e.g., disability, race, sexuality) or sensitive topics (e.g., sexual assault, trauma, death and dying), varied audiences express a heightened curiosity about our experiences with these issues.  How we respond to these curiosities can impact our credibility (Ostrove & Rinaldi, 2013), the perceived validity of our scholarship (Brewis, 2005), our capacities to exist safely in the field (La Pastina, 2006), and our overall well-being (Mitchell, 2008).  Yet our relationship to any topic we study, teach, or have an interest in is rarely straightforward, and accounting for those connections goes beyond mere self-reflexivity in research. 

As colleagues, students, reviewers, and friends ask us to be reflexive, we invite some recursivity: What is reflexivity?  Be reflexive how, why, and for whom?  And what does reflexive practice (or lack thereof) do for/to the researcher?  We seek to unsettle our methodological practices by acknowledging the differences between reflexivity and disclosure.  Just as scholars have considered the differences between reflexivity and reflection, we believe that disclosure incorporates “very different understandings of the nature of our social realities; very different understanding of who we are in relation to our world and others; and these understandings carry different implications and responsibilities for our actions and interactions” (Cunliffe, 2009, p. 410).  As we attend to care (i.e., being careful and caring; practicing self-care), we problematize these methodological “trends in tension” (Ganesh & McAllum, 2012) and invite management and organization scholars to do the same.  The distinction between reflexivity and disclosure, and whether we are doing one, the other, or both, requires that we go about our research and teaching in different ways.  Indeed, choosing to be reflexive, to disclose, or both, requires us to live life differently. 

Current conversations among disability studies scholars invite researchers to “disclose their relationship to disability” (O’Toole, 2013, para. 23), to show readers the “disability between the lines” (Rinaldi, 2013), and to “come out” about one’s own experiential knowledge in disability research (Burke & Nicodemus, 2013; Mogendorff, 2013; Schalk, 2013).  As in disability studies, coming out is an important ethical and political move in many areas of research, one that can disrupt the objectification that often occurs when privileged researchers study a “different” population.  Yet these reflexive moves may also create harm: They can produce or reproduce trauma for our readers, our participants, and ourselves, and they may reinforce epistemologies grounded in self, rather than self-other dialogue, that create the marginalization that critical scholars hope to undo (Conquergood, 1982; Madison, 2012). 

Tethering methodological rigor to disclosure alone becomes troubling when read through the lens of trauma. Trauma “makes a breach that empties the person out” (p. 129) and “can reactivate aspects of autistic states” (Mitchell, 1998, p. 125).  If violence, disease, and accidents generate experience that defies language (Ricouer, 1998; Rogers, 2007; Scarry, 1985), what ability does reflexivity require?  What sense of bodily and psychic security is embedded in the methodological imperative that collapses reflexivity and disclosure?  When trauma undoes us, the self upon which we are supposed to reflex dissolves.  What does reflexivity look like and feel like for war veterans whose PTSD trains their reflexes on phantoms no longer physically present?  Being reflexive around trauma, scholars often mark “jarring” writing (Tracy, 2004) and create representational practices that push the boundaries of what it means to be literate and coherent (Robertson, 2003).  Indeed, questions of representation—at the heart of reflexivity—are more complicated when reflections on violence can create violence (Projansky, 2001) for those who write, read, and watch it. 

The notion of reflexivity, or a crisis of truth, has only recently emerged in organization and management studies (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2000; Calás & Smircich, 1999; Cooper, 1990; Watson, 1995).  Thus, we believe it is an important moment to consider, as Cunliffe (2003) does, the difficulties around reflexive methods in organizational research.  As organizational scholars conducting qualitative research in the areas of disability and trauma, respectively, we invoke these questions to both trace and problematize calls for reflexivity in our discipline(s): Who calls for researcher disclosure as reflexive practice?  How does the researcher’s choice regarding disclosure shift as different others make that call?  How does reflexive practice shift as researchers grapple with caring for others who encounter our work, caring for those who participate in our research, and caring for ourselves in connection to community?  Fine (2007) observed that, in widening our methodological capacities, it is inevitable that “differences of interpretation, critique, vulnerabilities, and conflict will erupt” (p. 466).  Therefore, we must craft strategies for how “these differences, both healthy and troubling, are resolved or allowed to flourish” (Fine, 2007, p. 466).  Fostering a genuine dialogue about the “limit situations” (Fine & Weis, 2005, p. 66) in which qualitative researchers navigate and make sense of disclosure in/as reflexivity, we believe, offers one potential strategy.  

Drawing from our own experiences in the field, the academy, with colleagues and friends, we argue that some qualitative research in management and organization studies necessitates a different kind of reflexive practice, what we term reflexive caring.  Reflexive caring recognizes that there is “power in silence” (Lorde, 1984; Parker, Oceguera, & Sanches, 2011) and encourages alternative ways to “listen to the silence” (Clair, 1998), offering novel possibilities for reflexive practice in future qualitative research.  Reflexive caring begins with deep reflection by persons, conscious of their active engagement across difference, becoming aware of the many silences that exist (Parker, Oceguera, & Sanches, 2011).  We suggest that reflexive caring prompts concrete changes in defining reflexivity, in writing qualitative research, and in training and supporting graduate students and early career scholars.  Situated in tension with calls for greater disclosure in qualitative research, we invite management and organization scholars to think, care-fully, about the methodological demand, “reflexivity: just do it” (Latour, 1988, p. 170). 

Selected References
Alvesson, M., & Sköldberg, K. (2000). Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research towards a reflexive methodology. London: Sage. Brewis, J. (2005). Signing my life away? Researching sex and organization. Organization, 12(4), 493–510. Burke, T. B., & Nicodemus, B. (2013). Coming out of the hard of hearing closet: Reflections on a shared journey in academia. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2).  Clair, R. P. (1998). Organizing silence: A world of possibilities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Cunliffe, A. L. (2003). Reflexive inquiry in organizational research: Questions and possibilities. Human Relations, 56(8), 983–1002. Cunliffe, A. L. (2009). Reflexivity, learning and reflexive practice. In S. Armstrong & C. V. Fukami (Eds.), The Sage handbook of management learning, education and development (pp. 405–418). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Fine, M. (2007). Expanding the methodological imagination. Counseling Psychologist, 35(3), 459–473. Fine, M., & Weis, L. (2005). Compositional studies, in two parts: Critical theorizing and analysis on social (in)justice. In N. K. Denzin & Y. L. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 65–84). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ganesh, S., & McAllum, K. (2012). Volunteering and professionalization: Trends in tension? Management Communication Quarterly, 26(1), 152–158. La Pastina, A. C. (2006). The implications of an ethnographer’s sexuality. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(4), 724–735. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press. Mitchell, J. (1998). Trauma, recognition, and the place of language. Diacritics, 28(4) 121–133. Morgendorff, K. (2013). The blurring of boundaries between research and everyday life: Dilemmas of employing one’s own experiential knowledge in disability research. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2). Retrieved from dsq-sds.org/article/view/3713/3231 O’Toole, C. (2013). Disclosing our relationships to disabilities: An invitation for disability studies scholars. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2). Ostrove, J. M., & Rinaldi, J. (2013). Self-reflection as scholarly praxis: Researcher identity in disability studies. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2). Projansky, S. (2001). Watching rape: Film and television in postfeminist culture. New York, NY: New York University Press. Ricouer, P. (1998). Violence and language. Bulletin De La Société Américaine De Philosophie De Langue Française, 10(2), 32–41. Rinaldi, J. (2013). Reflexivity in research: Disability between the lines. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2). Retrieved from dsq-sds.org/article/view/3711/3227 Robertson, J. (2003). Listening to the heartbeat of New York: Writings on the wall. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(1), 129–152.  Rogers, A. G. (2007). The unsayable: The hidden language of trauma. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. Scarry, E. (1985). The body in pain: The making and unmaking of the world. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Schalk, S. (2013). Coming to claim crip: Disidentification with/in disability studies. Disability Studies Quarterly, 33(2). Retrieved from dsq-sds.org/article/view/3705/3240 Tracy, S. J. (2004). The construction of correctional officers: Layers of emotionality behind bars. Qualitative Inquiry, 10(4), 509–533.

Liz Hayes
Director Corporate Community, Ireland

Clare Hopkinson
University of the West of England, UK
Faculty of Health and Life Science,

Alan Taylor
Faculty of Heath and Life Sciences
Coventry University, UK

Three voices, three subjectivities, three struggles

The three of us worked on our PhDs in a group environment from 2003 to 2010. Our inquiries were entitled “More than a good gossip? – An inquiry into nurses’ reflecting on the ward,” “In my Practice; Working with Reluctance, Playful Subversion and Fundamentalist Thinking in Organisations” and “Queering the Organisation.”  Our work was deliberately subjective and attended to the margins that we discovered and continue to work with in our practice and research. Each of us presented our work in creative ways that allowed us to include our ‘selves’ and passions as we sought to be critically reflexive about our inquiries in an applied way.

Since completion we have also found ways of inquiring together and our research interests interweave around and leadership and healthcare. But within and against a possible framing of commonality of interest and/or focus, we are discovering that our very embodied subjectivities preclude us reaching agreement or consensus too quickly. Rather than see this as a problem, however, we relish our differences, and understand our diversity as a resource from which we can individually AND jointly develop new understandings.

We are now beginning to articulate our early-career post-doctoral research identities (as we grow into our mid-fifties in chronological age) and continue to work in and flirt with the academy. We find that these identities, and our different approaches, are not easily accommodated by healthcare research, which is increasingly the common ground of our respective work. Indeed we find that health and social care, and perhaps public administration in general are (sometimes viciously) at odds with our own awarenesses.

In some current work on establishing reference material on the science of healthcare improvement, we find ourselves engaged in contexts where the assumption is that an all-encompassing definition and a robust evidence base will establish quality of care and patient safety as an Improvement Science. Yet the outcomes of investigations and the subsequent advice following disclosures about poor standards of care in the NHS suggest that the interface between corporate and clinical cultures hold both the causes of inadequacies in care and the potential for ensuring better care for patients.   

Subjectivity – which might be an appropriate stance in inquiries regarding culture and context - can be constructed as deeply troublesome as it complicates the linear, positivist stance and confronts us with the responsibility of being in the midst of systems and sets of relationships that refuse simplistic explanations and require a tolerance for ambiguity.   

Paradox, tensions and subjectivity, with which we are all comfortable, and indeed use as powerful support to knowledge generation, are vilified as timewasting, self absorbed naval gazing antics that produce any significant generalizable and authorative truth.
In this paper, we want to share our struggle with these issues and in a plural, subjective, poly-vocal conversation and learn with you about how to maintain our hope and sense of fun with learning and work.

Join us!

Selected References
Argyris, M. and Schön, D. (1974) Theory in Practice. Increasing professional effectiveness, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Baumann, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity Cambridge, UK: Polity Press Braidotti, R. (1994) Nomadic subjects: embodiment and sexual difference in contemporary feminist theory, New York: Columbia University Press. Braidotti, R. (2002) Metamorphoses: towards a materialist theory of becoming, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press Braidotti, R. (2006) Transpositions: on nomadic ethics, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press Butler, J. (1997) The psychic life of power: theories in subjection, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Butler, J. (1999) Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, London: Routledge. Carr, W., Kemmis, S. (1986) Becoming Critical: Education, Knowledge and Action Research London: The Falmer Press Dzodan, F. (2011) MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT! TigerBeatdown blog < tigerbeatdown.com/2011/10/10/my-feminism-will-be-intersectional-or-it-will-be-bullshit/&gt; [14 June 2013] Freire, P. (1976) Education: The Practice of Freedom New York: Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative Hayes, E.S. (2011) In my Practice. Working with reluctance, playful subversion and fundamentalist thinking in organisations PhD, SOLAR (Social and Organisational Learning as Action Research), UWE Heron, J. (1996) Co-operative Inquiry: Research into the Human Condition London: Sage Heron, J. (1985) The role of reflection in co-operative inquiry In D. Boud, R., Keogh, D. Walker (Eds) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning Lewes: Kogan Page hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom New York: Routledge Hopkinson, C. (2013) Teaching and Using Poetry in Healthcare In P.McIntosh and D.Warren Creativity in the Classroom: case studies in Using the Arts in Teaching and learning in Higher Education Bristol:Intellect Hopkinson , C. (2010) More than A Good Gossip? An Inquiry into Nurses’ Reflecting in the Ward, PhD, SOLAR (Social and Organisational Learning as Action Research), UWE Marshall, J. (2004) Living systemic thinking: Exploring quality in first person action research Action Research 2 (3) 303-325 Marshall, J. (1999) Living life as inquiry Systemic Practice and Action Research 12(2)155-171 Mezirow, J. (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning San Francisco California Morgan, G. (1997) Images of organization, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Reason, P., Bradbury, H. (2001) The Handbook of Action Research London: Sage Richardson, L. (1997) Fields of Play: Constructing an Academic Life New Jersey: Rutgers University Press Sedgwick, E. K. (1990) Epistemology of the closet, Berkeley: University of California Press. Spivak, G.C. (1988) Can the subaltern speak? <http://www.mcgill.ca/files/crclaw-discourse/Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf> [12 June 2013] Taylor, A.G. (2009) Queering the Organisation PhD, SOLAR (Social and Organisational Learning as Action Research), UWE Weil, S. (1998) Rhetorics and Realities in Public Service Organizations; Systemic Practice and Organizational learning as Critically Reflexive Action Research Systemic Practice and Action Research 11 (1) 37-62.

Alison Henderson
Department of Management Communication
University of Waikato, New Zealand
Email: alison@waikato.ac.nz

Linda Putnam
Department of Communication
University of California, Santa Barbara. USA

Shaping food production: A dialectical analysis of organizational tensions about what constitutes healthy foods

This paper employs a qualitative dialectical method to examine the social constructions of strategic choice in the food and nutrition industry. It demonstrates the methodological discourse approach of tension analysis in a study of two food producing organizations. Drawing on interviews with sixteen heads of divisions of two large food producing organizations in New Zealand, the study focuses on the ways that societal discourses about food affect perceptions of strategic choices in this industry. We examine discourses related to conceptions of healthy foods, distinctions and similarities with related industries, perceived markets, scientific analysis and testing of products, relationships with regulators, and strategic visions for the companies. Then we use these discourses to decipher tensions about what constitutes healthy foods.

The study centers on the sensemaking of organizational actors as they move into new product development, in areas informed by advances in science. In general, the difficulties of casting food as healthy places organizations in competing discourse domains – food consumption versus medical treatment. In moving between these domains, organizations struggle to reconcile the complexities of research, production, and the positioning of products. Making a strategic choice among these discourses becomes a contradictory and potentially paradoxical process.

As a contribution to Stream 2, this study demonstrates the use of dialectical tensions as a lens for conducting qualitative analysis. We are conducting thematic analyses of discourse categories, isolating explicit and implicit tensions, and identifying ways that members manage these tensions. We then connect these tensions with business models of health and larger societal issues of increasing food access, maintaining a sustainable food supply, and acknowledging food sovereignty.

Tentative findings at this stage indicate that one organization struggles with tensions between positioning foods as naturally healthy (unprocessed) as opposed to treating them as therapeutic health foods (processed). Executives vacillate between opposite poles; namely, privileging anecdotal evidence of health benefits versus relying on controlled scientific experiments.  The other organization struggles with the ability of science to adequately test the therapeutic attributes of food and the regulatory necessity to do so. They vacillate among privileging scientific opportunities, targeting health needs, and meeting market demands.  Both organizations tend to make strategic choices by separating tensions rather than reframing or holding them together. This pattern produces a cyclical process that problematizes research and development and constrains potential markets.

This paper makes three contributions: (i) it demonstrates how to use dialectics as a lens to examine strategic organizational issues in the health foods industry; (ii) it shows how the management of tensions regarding perceptions of health, science, and markets affect strategic choices; and (iii) it ties these sensemaking patterns to wider societal issues about food production and distribution.

Monika Hudson
School of Management
University of San Francisco, USA

Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez
Salem College, NC. USA

Pier C. Rogers
Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management
North Park University, USA

Keith O. Hunter
School of Management
University of San Francisco, USA

Nonprofit Sector Leadership: What does it really look like?

In an ideal world, leadership is assumed to be based on meritocracy measurements.  However, in reality, many individuals use implicit theories about leadership as the prism through which they identify and assess leaders’ explicit behaviors.  This paper summarizes findings from a 2010 ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) Conference colloquia that used “hair” as the basis for conversations about leadership in the world and in the workplace.  While literature about implicit leadership forms the theoretical framework for this analysis, the practice implications of the findings for the nonprofit and voluntary sectors are of note.

PROBLEM:  People recognize that leaders are vital to the effective functioning of groups, organizations and societies (Wren, 1995).  But what does it take to be viewed or perceived as a leader?  Individuals tend to have an implicit sense of how a leader should think, look and behave.  These subjective leadership notions vary from one culture to the next and incorporate a wide variety of assumptions, most of which are not made explicit – particularly in organizational settings (Eden & Leviathan, 1975).  Lack of agreement about what constitutes leadership can create challenges in nonprofit organizations, particularly given resource constraints and differences in race, gender, income, and age groups within associated employee and client populations.

Questions about a “threadlike outgrowth from the epidermis of plants, mammals and other animals”  (i.e., hair) were used as the basis for examining perceptions about what constitutes “leadership” in the nonprofit and voluntary sectors.  ARNOVA conference participants, individually and in groups, provided the “hair” story database.  We continued this three-year participatory action qualitative research project with the intent of discovering more about the ways that leaders and leadership are viewed in the nonprofit sector.  This empirical paper summarizes the results from our 2010 examination of this question.

STATE OF KNOWLEDGE: One’s social environment is strongly influenced by cultural background. Therefore, attributes for the prototypical leader may not be consistent across cultures (Watters, 2013).  Hence, the study of leadership is challenging within and across cultures: abstract classifications are created and reinforced within both systems.  Since prevailing leadership models have been grounded in a North American context that prioritizes individualism over collectivism and emphasizes followership responsibilities rather than rights, this value orientation may unduly influence formal and informal communications and organizational settings (House, 1995; Watters, 2013). 

Cross-cultural anthropologists and psychologists have determined that non-Western cultures do not share some of these assumptions and “as a result, there is a growing awareness of the…need for an empirically grounded theory to explain differential leader behavior and effectiveness across cultures” (House, 1995, p. 443-444).  This is all the more pertinent within the nonprofit sector where, given the diverse client populations served, one must be prepared to interpret cultural differences and their influence in determining leadership prototypes (Shaw, 1990).  For a sector that has a duty of loyalty, obedience, and care and often purposely seeks out to be inclusive of others, implicit theories of leadership and the prototypes of leaders and followers may disadvantage or bias one group of individuals over another (Epitropaki & Martin, 2005).

APPROACH:  Individual and focus group conversations collected during a 2010 ARNOVA colloquia served as the basis for this qualitative research effort.  Within small groups, the 24 colloquia participants were asked to create pictorial montages, describe nonprofit and voluntary action leaders, and provide a rationale for their associated descriptions.  Session attendees were also asked to provide individual responses to questions about the various ways that leaders and leadership are defined within the nonprofit sector.  The transcripts from the individual and collective sessions were recorded and a content analysis of the results was conducted, using storytelling as the framework (Lewis, 2011).  Hence, culminating in a reflective exploration of how individuals from various background perceive leaders and leadership, to funder understand how subjectivity and difference impact organizational culture and dynamics within the nonprofit sector.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FIELD: The issue of leadership in the midst of our current times requires different perspectives.  As former “minority” groups edge towards being the “majority”, it becomes even more imperative that we question long-held notions about leadership and power.  Given the role that women and persons of color play in the nonprofit sector, it is presumed that ideas about who can be a leader are being modified.  Our research contradicts that assumption.  If the sector is to effectively function in the future, a deeper exploration of the assumptions inherent in “implicit” leadership is warranted. 

Eden, D. & Leviatan, U. (1975). Implicit leadership theory as a determinant of the factor structure underlying supervisory behavior scales. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 736-741. Epitropaki, O. & Martin, R. (2005). From ideal to real: a longitudinal study of the role of implicit leadership theories on leader member exchanges and employee outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 659-676. House, R.J. (1995). Leadership in the 21st century: A speculative enquiry. In Howard, A. (ed.) The changing nature of work. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Lewis, P. J. (2011).  Storytelling as research/Research as storytelling.  Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6) 505-510. Watters, E. (2013). We aren’t the world: Why Americans are the weirdest people in the world. Pacific Standard, February 13, 2013. Wren, T. J. (Ed). (1995) The leader's companion: Insights on leadership through the ages. New York, NY, USA: Free Press.

Dariusz Jemielniak
Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces
Kozminski University

Avatars, personas, and other tricks of the trade of online ethnography

Subjectivity in qualitative research has been a topic of discussion for quite a while, including organization studies (Cunliffe, 2011; Krzyworzeka, 2008; Morgan & Smircich, 1980; Sanders, 1982). However, the main focus of these considerations have been traditional organizations and, most typically, face to face interactions.

In the proposed paper I would like to take this a step further and discuss the problems and typical pitfalls awaiting qualitative researchers when conducting their studies online.

For some scholars online social phenomena are significantly distinctive from traditional fieldwork (Buchanan, 2004). It is true that conducting online studies, and digital ethnography in particular, requires significant modifications of our research repertoire (Schroeder & Axelsson, 2006). For instance, a lot of interactions in some online communities are carried on by text only (Williams, 2007), which is definitely a-typical for regular social conduct. And yet, it can be claimed that all of the differences of online communities cannot be reduced to a claim that they are less rich in data or actual interactions (Paccagnella, 1997). Many researchers agree that internet ethnography should be considered to be a part and a natural extension of traditional anthropological toolset (Adamczyk, 2009; Randall, Harper, & Rouncefield, 2007; Travers, 2009).

I would like to present my reflections from a six-year ethnographic study of Wikipedia community (Jemielniak, 2014). Open collaboration communities are only recently gaining more attention in organization studies (Hill & Monroy-Hernández, 2013; Keegan, Gergle, & Contractor, 2012), and so far mainly their professional counterparts (Ciesielska, 2010), such as Free/Libre/Open Software movement.

I would like to put a particular emphasis on the issues of online identity and subjectivity of interactions with avatars and Internet personas, and show how Wikipedia, the largest collaborative project of humankind focused on knowledge creation, handles the issue of online identities (Chen, 2010; Welham & Lakhan, 2009). I am going to try to explain a paradox: while Wikipedia obviously strives for credibility of information, in the same time Wikipedia community refuses to allow any forms of credentials verification for editors. This phenomenon is related to trust enactment on Wikipedia (trust in procedures substitutes trust in other editors), but also sheds an interesting light on the sociocultural construction of self in the social setting, where identities are entirely liquid, fragile, and multiple (Bauman, 2007).


Adamczyk, M. 2009. Język sieciowych dyskusji w oczach samych dyskutantów. In D. Ulicka (Ed.), Tekst (w) sieci. Tekst, język, gatunki. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne. Bauman, Z. 2007. Liquid times: living in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press. Buchanan, E. A. (Ed.). 2004. Readings in virtual research ethics: Issues and controversies. Hershey - London - Melbourne - Singapore: Information Science Publishing. Chen, S. 2010. Wikipedia: A Republic of Science Democratized. Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology, 20(2): 247-325. Ciesielska, M. 2010. Hybrid Organisations. A study of the Open Source – business setting. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School. Cunliffe, A. L. 2011. Crafting Qualitative Research Morgan and Smircich 30 Years On. Organizational Research Methods, 14(4): 647-673. Hill, B. M. & Monroy-Hernández, A. 2013. The Remixing Dilemma The Trade-Off Between Generativity and Originality. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(5): 643-663. Jemielniak, D. 2014. Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Keegan, B., Gergle, D., & Contractor, N. 2012. Do editors or articles drive collaboration?: multilevel statistical network analysis of wikipedia coauthorship. Proceedings of the ACM 2012 conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work: 427-436. Krzyworzeka, P. 2008. Kultura i organizacje: perspektywa antropologiczna. In M. Kostera (Ed.), Nowe kierunki w zarządzaniu. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne. Morgan, G. & Smircich, L. 1980. The case for qualitative research. Academy of Management Review, 5(4): 491-500. Paccagnella, L. 1997. Getting the seats of your pants dirty: Strategies for ethnographic research on virtual communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 3(1): 0 doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.1997.tb00065.x. Randall, D., Harper, R., & Rouncefield, M. 2007. Fieldwork for design: theory and practice. London: Springer-Verlag. Sanders, P. 1982. Phenomenology: a new way of viewing organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 7(3): 353-360. Schroeder, R. & Axelsson, A. S. 2006. Avatars at work and play: Collaboration and interaction in shared virtual environments. Dordrecht: Springer. Travers, M. 2009. New methods, old problems: A sceptical view of innovation in qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 9(2): 161-179. Welham, J. & Lakhan, N. 2009. Wikipedia sentinel quits after 'sock-puppeting' scandal", The New Zealand Herald. Williams, M. 2007. Avatar watching: participant observation in graphical online environments. Qualitative Research, 7(1): 5-24.

Elizabeth Johnston & Anthony Kortens
University of Phoenix, USA

Emancipating reflexive voice in developing contemporary graduate identity: The role of synthesis, critical thinking and design thinking

Our continuing work on the concept of Appreciative Surprise since 2008 inspired us to make powerful connections to design thinking and to the use of visual tools to support same. Over the last two years – since attending QRM2012 we have extended our work into re-examining the paucity of attention to design thinking, abductive logic and the role of doubt, uncertainty and surprise ……within doctoral education.

In late 2012 we were awarded a research fellowship to investigate the role of theorizing within doctoral education. We have come to understand theorizing as a sense-making activity that may spring from a sense of surprise, doubt, uncertainty, mystery (Alvesson & Karreman, 2007; Langley, 1999; Locke, Golden-Biddle, & Feldman, 2008; K. Weick, 1989; K. E. Weick, 1999)The experience of uncertainty or mystery provides a space where discovery can occur.  We see the centrality of pedagogical relationships in co-creating unique student voice. We conclude the nature of the relationship between learners and faculty is critical in shaping many aspects of graduate identity.  The relationship works both ways and shapes faculty self perceptions as well as student.

General Problem: The problem is that any pedagogical context that suppresses original, informed student and faculty voice also inhibits developing critical reasoning skills needed to synthesize and evaluate.  Such higher order thinking skills are exemplified in co-creating new, unique coherent forms of synthesis.  Synthesizing or designing original approaches enables contextually relevant decisions, and actions.  Lacking capacity to synthesize or design original representations disables leadership, and the potential to reach higher levels of adult ego development.   Ultimately, the lack of critical thinking, synthesis, and design thinking undermines the emergence of agile leaders, who can navigate, and resolve today’s problems (Dunne & Martin, 2006; Eisner, 2005).

Our Research Questions:

  • What metaphors of power, identity and context support informed voice?
  • What forms of pedagogical context enable active development of informed student and faculty voice, critical reasoning and design skills, agile leadership and original scholarship?
  • How can students and faculty prepare for a post Fordism environment where agile, generative thinking will be required to cope with rapid change?

Our Research Design: The design focus for this study was critical inquiry, the skills that are applied to many reasoning contexts and might be considered in both the genesis and implementation of research (Locke et al, 2008).  The specific goal of this teaching and learning fellowship study was to gain insight into the current state of the critical inquiry explorative process (e.g. research design and critical inquiry of all kinds).  The intent was to assess how the university might collaboratively engage faculty and students to develop models and recommendations supporting and enhancing the learner experiences in critical inquiry. Ultimately, the goal of creating better designs for flexible learning and discovery is not just better dissertations, but graduates with increased generative capacity to theorize in an agile, supple, and mature dimension because of involvement in generating original inquiries and research. 

As we considered the exploratory framework that might be needed, we began with sources of evidence.  Student and faculty stories might provide a profile of where critical moments in theorizing occurred.  What might we listen for when we talked with faculty and students about experiences of theoretical understanding and activity?  What might we look for and what might we expect to see when reviewing curricular and instructional models.  A review of curriculum and instructional models might provide a map of where we could expect to see discovery learning taking place.

Accordingly, our general research plan included investigating opportunities for discovery learning in the curriculum or instructional experiences of students.  Instructional observations were scheduled in seven classes, interviews with faculty and staff were scheduled, and all curriculum materials for the seven classes and others were examined in detail.

Research Findings to date:

An over-reliance on deductive approaches within standard research curriculum materials. Curriculum does not emphasize holistic, multi-disciplinary learning approaches (eg: such as developed in Project Zero). Lack of opportunities for sense-making/thought experiments/ metaphorical thinking in formal assignments or pedagogical guidelines. Lack of nuance to discriminate between reasoned judgment from the literature and co-creation of unique, original theories, models, or concepts.

An over emphasis on Bloom’s Taxonomy may limit (a) awareness and acknowledgement of inductive or abductive thinking skills: (b) may limit awareness and acknowledgement of non-sentential reasoning and representations of all kinds including the fine arts or other expressions of embodiment.

Little or no emphasis on exercises or activities that lead to the creation of new tools, models, or theories.

Interesting research conclusions thus far: We have come to conclude that higher order critical thinking skills are developed within and through the generative capacity for synthesis, or co-creating unique, coherent wholes. Synthesizing is a form of unique student voice that allows connections across boundaries that otherwise can separate ideas, politics, economics and other ways of making sense of the world. The original research contribution is seen to come from acknowledging the role of design thinking (Johnston & Kortens) and discovery practices (sense-making) within pedagogical practices. An imperative is seen to deliberately move from an over-reliance of deductive approaches to the inclusion of multiple logics, non-sentential representations and a commitment to cultivating reflexive voice.

Alvesson, M, & Karreman, D. (2007). Constructing mystery: Empirical matters in theory development. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1265-1281. Dunne, & Martin. (2006). Design thinking and how It will change management education: An interview and discussion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(4), 512-523. Eisner, E.W. (2005). Reimagining schools: The selected works of Elliot W. Eisner: Taylor & Francis US. Johnston, E., & Kortens, A. (2010). Appreciative Surprise: A strategic approach to generating reflexive responses to meet the challenges of 21st-century corporate citizenship. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship(37), 55-68. Langley. (1999). The Academy of Management Review, 24(4).  Locke, K., Golden-Biddle, K., &, & Feldman, M. (2008). Making Doubt Generative: Rethinking the Role of Doubt in the Research Process. Organization Science, 19(6), 907-919.  Weick, K. (1989). Theory Construction as Disciplined Imagination. The Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 516-531.  Weick, K. E. . (1999). Theory construction as disciplined Reflexivity: Tradeoffs in the 90's. Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 797-797.

Geetha P Karunanayake
University of Hull, UK

Ethnic Identity as Discursive Practices

Often studies treating ‘ethnicity’ as an exogenous variable discuss it as given or study it as a conscious or unconscious process where an individual incorporates the ‘other’ as an identity maker into her/his identity through self-categorization (Brown, 2000; Klein et al., 2007). However, there are practical difficulties and drawbacks in the above perspective as they leave us with some questions: How can we explore empirically the process an individual undergoes in constructing, reconstructing and changing ethnic identity? How can an understanding of ethnic identity be brought into the discussion as an ongoing process? These can be considered as gaps in knowledge in research that discusses ethnicity as a cognitive process of self categorization. 

An alternative perspective views the notion of ethnicity as subjective and socially constructed. A social constructionist perspective suggests that ethnicity is not a cognitive process, nor is it transmitted to others as objectified structures or through independent socialization processes, but it is an ongoing process of enactment as individuals experience each other in a community in relational and responsive ways. The basis of this paper is therefore that ethnicity is constructed, reconstructed and changes in an ongoing process.
I will discuss how the interplay of broader social, cultural and political discourses along with daily practices and discourses of tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka influence ethnic identities in an ongoing process. The paper will also discuss how symbolic manifestations influence ethnicity.

This paper is an outcome of my Ph.D. research, an ethnographic and primarily qualitative study in which I spent 4 months living on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka. Ethnography, a methodology derived from anthropology, has become popular within social sciences, but is underutilized in organizational research (Agar, 1980; Fincham, 2008). According to the literature, ethnography can vary from a ‘positivist approach’ of selecting and testing hypotheses in scientific ways to a ‘naturalist approach’, which explores social processes in their natural state (Watson, 1994). In this research, I favour naturalism, as it assists the researcher to engage reflexively in the research process in order to present the research findings as an interpretive process (Watson, 1994).

By adopting discourse analysis as the method of data analysis, this study threats ethnicity as simultaneously traditional and new, ongoing and fragile. Discourse analysis has been used in different contexts, and looked at from different perspectives (Cunliffe, 2008; Grant and Hardy, 2003). Also, discourse analysis is found to be significant in ethnographic research and empirical studies (Hardy, Lawrence et al, 2005; Hardy 2001; Callero, 2003) as an approach to analyze and examine the use of language and social actions. In this research discourse analysis is used to explore and understand the meaning, expressions, themes, and routine ways of talk and practices which brings realities and also identities into existence with the ontological assumption that these are by and large produced by individuals and groups by their day-today interactions (Morgan and Smirich, 1980).

The research findings suggest that the notion of ethnicity is a social and political construction. The establishment and legitimization of ethnic identity through administrative policy decisions and subsequent legislative enactments is discussed (Devaraj, 2008; Peiris, 2006; Tambiah, 1986; Weerawardena, 2000). The findings also suggest that language is a social reproduction, and through cultural practices it brings a sense of ethnicity into the plantation community. The community’s imposition of restrictions on use of the majority ‘Sinhala’ language in their daily conversations reinforces and formalizes their ‘Tamilness’ in language use. Violating the established norms (e.g. using the Sinhala language) can cause community unrest as this threatens their already established Tamilness. Conformity to this norm brings stability and continuity to the plantation community. However, inability to communicate in Sinhala causes youth to be marginalized when trying to integrate with the larger society. The same applies when seeking opportunities. The paper also provides evidence of how people make meanings out of symbolic aspects to construct their ethnic identity. Individuals, by encountering these symbolic aspects (e.g. dress, pottu, etc,), create meanings within a context. As these get taken for granted, they become commonly accepted meanings that speak for themselves. Individuals who encounter these symbolic aspects, even in a different context, make sense of them by attaching meanings from their previous experiences.

The paper concludes that a combination of subjective discursive practices and objective indicators constructed and shared by the members of the plantation bring ethnic identity, which are either in harmony or in conflict. The harmony or conflict could easily be related to the participants’ persecution in the past and historical experiences at different points in time, to their present status as Tamil tea plantation workers. The proposal that ethnicity is an interactional accomplishment played out and enacted through micro and macro discourses, in both public and private spaces, differs from other conceptions of ethnicity by offering a more holistic view.

Agar, M. H. (1980), "The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography," (2 edn.), London, Academic Press Incorporation.
Brown, R. (2000), "Social Identity Theory: Past Achievements, Current Problems and Future Challenges." European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, pp.745-778. Callero, L. P. (2003), “The Sociology of the Self." Annual Review of Sociology, 29, pp. 115-133. Cunliffe, A. L. (2008), "Orientations to Social Constructionism: Relationally Responsive Social Constructionism and Its Implications for Knowledge and Learning." Management Learning, 39, No.2: pp. 123-139. Devaraj, P. P. (2008), Constitutional Electoral Reform Proposals and Indian origin Tamils’. Colombo, Foundation for Community Transformation. Fincham, B. (2008), "Balance is Everything: Bicycle Messengers, Work and Leisure." Sociology, 42, No.4: pp. 618-634. Grant, D. and Hardy, C. (2003), "Introduction: Struggles with Organizational Discourse." Organization Studies 25, No.1: pp. 5-13. Hardy, C. (2001), "Researching Organizational discourse." International Studies of Management and Organization, Vol. 31, No.3: pp. 25-47. Hardy, C., Lawrence, T. B. and Grant, D. (2005), "Discourse and Collaboration: The Role of Conversations and Collective Identity." Academy of Management Review, 30, No.1: pp. 58-77. Klein, O., Spears, R. and Reicher, S. (2007), "Social Identity Performance: Extending the Strategic Side of SIDE." Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 11, No.1: pp. 28-45. Morgan, G. and Smircich, L. (1980), "The Case for Qualitative Research." Academy of Management Review, Vol. 5, No.4: pp. 491-500. Peiris G. G. (2006) Sri Lanka: Challenges of the New Millennium, Sri Lanka, Kandy Tambiah, S. J. (1986), "Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy," Chicago, The University Chicago Press. Watson, T. J. (1994), "Managing, Crafting and Researching: Words, Skill and Imagination in Shaping Management Research." British Journal of Management, Vol. 5, No.2: pp. S77-S87. Weerawardena, I. D. S. (2000), "The Minorities and the Citizenship Act." Pravada, Vol. 6, No.9/10: pp. 20-23.

Catherine Kelly
University of Roehampton

Social epistemology, epistemic imbalances and decision making processes in groups

The broad purpose of my research is to explore the ways in which knowledge is transferred and co-created within small groups, underpinned by a range of social processes including dialectical exchange. Studies have consistently demonstrated that group dynamics have a profound impact on the ways in which knowledge is voiced, shared, absorbed and acted upon. Notably, groups may appear cohesive, whereas in reality, conflict is simply suppressed making it difficult to incorporate effectively a range of views and perspectives (Janis, 1972; Harvey, 1988). It has been proposed that the human need to feel part of the group (Azar, 1990; Burton 1990) may outweigh the need to fully disclose individual views and perspectives. Senge (1990) has shown that the voicing of conflicting ideas and opinions is central to creative thinking within organisations whilst a range of research studies also found that groups engaged in problem solving and creative thinking benefit greatly from group diversity, when all parties are effectively incorporated into group deliberations. (Brown and Eisenhardt, 1988; Sessa and London, 2006; Wilson, Goodman & Cronin, 2007).

While the original research questions have emerged from the field of knowledge management, the approach to framing the research question has been informed by philosophical writings within the field of social epistemology. Social epistemology seeks to explore the social conditions which lead to knowledge (Goldman, 2011). More traditional scholars within social epistemology reflect the core assumptions present within the field of classical epistemology with regards to conceptions of knowledge. These suggest that the pursuit of knowledge may be framed as largely a rational and objectively driven process and that ‘truth’ may be seen as a fixed reality that can be uncovered through the appropriate knowledge seeking processes.

However, more radical perspectives within social epistemology have sought to reframe some of the central concerns within social epistemology to focus on much clearer distinctions between facts and values vis-a-vis our understandings of what constitutes knowledge. Fricker proposes that we ‘look at the world through a lens that is maximally informative about the human relations in play (epistemic, ethical, social, political) and then see if we can bring philosophical structure to bear in order to explain what those relations are, and how they are, or are not, interwoven’ (Fricker cited in Dieleman, 2012, p.256). Testimony (knowledge gained from other people) is one of the primary social source of knowledge, and as such is a major concern for social epistemology (Audi, 2003). Fricker (1988, 2007) suggests that belief in another’s testimony may rest in part upon competence and trusting the source, but testimonial belief may also rest upon social indicators unconnected to the individuals’ epistemic qualities or abilities, including social indicators which may be necessary to achieve credibility and which are closely related to social power. Within feminist social epistemology there are calls to create stronger theoretical links between epistemological, democratic and ethical practice. Anderson (1995), for example, proposes that the goal of epistemic enquiry should seek truths with reference to interrogating the interests behind the questions asked, placing any truth seeking community more openly within a value framework and allowing for co determination as to what this framework should be. Code (2006) calls for co-habitability in decision making which emphasises the social and ethical aspects of knowing, emphasizing again the idea of co production in knowledge seeking processes which lead to more robust knowledge outcomes because the available evidence will be non partial. This is in a similar vein to earlier work by Harding (1993) who argued that egalitarianism within communities seeking knowledge produces beneficial outcomes on epistemic as well as moral grounds.

In exploring knowledge sharing processes, the researcher considered it a useful first step to conduct a range of qualitative interviews amongst a broad cross section of experienced individuals working at different levels of seniority within the public sector, private sector, third sector and voluntary sector. The aim was to explore perceptions and views on group work and any factors which impact on the effectiveness of group interactions and knowledge sharing processes. This approach in itself provided a profound insight into the positioned nature of the varied perceptions on the efficacy of knowledge sharing processes in groups. The interviews employed a semi structured approach, in investigating a set of thematic areas, but also allowing sufficient latitude for the interviewee to introduce new themes, where these were clearly relevant to the topic under discussion. In total, eight interviews of approximately one hour’s length in duration were conducted.
Early research findings indicate that individuals who work at all levels within voluntary sector organisations are more acutely attuned to the ethical/value aspects of their work context. In addition, there is evident concern amongst this group with listening and responding to the many voices (Bakhtin, 1982) which seek to be heard within the organisational context. However, within the private and public sector context, as the individual transitions from organisational worker to the first levels of organisational management, this seems to involve a profound shift from efforts at responsiveness to the many voices, to a screening out process which displays itself within the very language of the individuals. This new language expresses itself in the ostensibly neutral discourse of management practice, in which decision making is objectively framed, focusing on measures of efficiency and effectiveness situated within an asocial framework, and which often seems to obviate the presence of a thinking subject with active agency. In essence, an awareness of the fact/value distinction in group interactions becomes cloaked by a managerial discourses which is implicitly ideological, but which comes to be regarded as objective knowledge, and which thus screens out dissenting voices.

Thus, it appears that an overly dominant management discourse may contribute to the creation of the marginalised voice or the presence of epistemic imbalance, reducing the knowledge available to groups (and by default to the organisation) to make informed decisions. This lack of attention to fact/value distinctions around decision making processes (i.e. a distinction between the best way to achieve outcomes versus whether these are the right outcomes to achieve) within managerial discourse seems, in effect, to create mindsets which are unable to respond to the lived realities of organisational life, and instead begin to see the organisation through a framework informed by management objects such as spreadsheets, organisational charts, business plans etc. In effect, there is a lack of clarity in these contexts around the kinds of knowledge (i.e. fact based or value based) which are informing the decision making processes.
The next stage of the research process will explore these issues in three case study organisations, consisting of a campaign based organisation, a public sector organisation and a private sector organisation, to assess whether the early findings are supported by broader and deeper level of research and subsequent analysis.


Anderson, E. (1995) “Feminist Epistemology: An Interpretation and a Defense”, Hypatia, 10(3), 50-84. Audi, R. (2003) Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge. London: Routledge. Azar. E. (1990) The Management of Protracted Social Conflict: Theory and Cases. Aldershot: Dartmouth. Bakhtin,M.M. (1982) Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Texas: U. of Texas Press. Brown, S. & Eisenhardt, K. (1998). Competing on the edge: Strategy as structured chaos. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Burton, J. (ed.) (1990) Conflict: Human Needs Theory. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Code, L. (2006) Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location. Oxford: Oxford University Press Dieleman, S. (2012) An Interview with Miranda Fricker. Social Epistemology, 26(2), 253-261. Fricker, M. (1988) “Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 19(2), 159-177. Fricker, M. (2007) Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goldman, A. (2011) A Guide to Social Epistemology in Goldman, A. And Whitcomb, D. (eds) Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 11 – 37. Harding, S. (1993) Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology in Alcoff and Potter (eds) Feminist Epistemologies. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 49-82 Harvey, J.B. (1988) The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement. Organizational Dynamics, Summer 1988, 17-43. Janis, I.L. (1972) Victims of Groupthink. Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin. Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. London: Century Business. Sessa, V.I. and London, M. (2006) Continuous learning: Individual, group and organisational perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wilson, J. M., Goodman, P.S. and Cronin, M.A. (2007) Group learning. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1041-1059

John T. Luhman
College of Business

Andy F. Nazario
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Eastern New Mexico University, USA

Police Stories as Alienation:  Exploring Our Writing with “Triple Reflectivity”

Recently we completed a qualitative research paper about the concept of alienation.  The paper, entitled “Alienation, Police Stories, and Percival,” demonstrated our assumption of alienation in the workplace by reviewing a collection of satirical and ironic organizational stories from officers working at a county sheriff’s department.  We also discussed the possibility of resolving alienation at the workplace by using the legend of Percival as an analogy. 

In our presentation, we will discuss how we came to write a paper on alienation as a means to capture our subjectivity in the research process.  We will perform this reflexive act by attempting to utilize what Boje, Luhman and Baack (1999) described as “triple reflectivity.”  This was their means to (a) reflect on what is happening at the level of story creation, (b) reflect on the ethical movements with the story reporting, and (c) reflect on the “micro-hegemonic” moves of the research writing.

Boje, D. M., Luhman, J. T. & Baack, D. E. (1999). Hegemonic stories and encounters between storytelling organizations. Journal of Management Inquiry, 8 (4), 340-361.

Klaus Majgaard,
Copenhagen Business School

Subjectivity Dead and Reborn: Managers’ Narrative Work to Maintain Agency in Paradoxical Contexts

Subjectivity is not a possession you can be sure of. It is hard work to maintain the agency and reflexivity that constitute the status of a subject. To managers, this can be a quite paradoxical affair – claiming an autonomous and extended agency while, at the same time, being a part of the organization that is managed (Griffin, 2002; Stacey 2007).

In recent public reforms, great demands are made upon this extended agency. In a report for the National School of Government (UK), Bennington & Hartley (2009) identify the need for a new adaptive leadership that tackles complex, tough and cross-cutting problems in ways that create new kinds of coherence across multiple borders of sectors, services, and levels of government. This recommendation is quite consistent with the claim for a more networked approach to governance and public value-creation (Stoker, 2006; O’Flynn, 2007; Osborne, 2010; Benning¬ton and Moore, 2011). Peters (2010) suggests that public managers “go meta” – that they raise their perspective from managing well-defined hierarchies to orchestrating com¬plex responsive processes in networks and taming the confrontation of its struggling logics. Following these lines, Peder¬sen & Tangkjær (2013) suggest a range of analytical, commu¬nity-building, critical-reflex¬ive, creative and performa¬tive skills as the normative pil¬lars of reflexive leader¬ship in the involving network state.

As much as managers are seen as midwifes of new wholes in public value creation, the basic paradox is intensified. On the one hand is the claim for an Olympic position from which to over¬view the organization and its institutional landscape and to intervene in order to ensure balance and coherence. On the other hand, each manager is, inescapably, a local agent making his way through this very landscape.
The paradox might be put in the following way: In order to manage, you must do it on behalf of some normative whole (welfare society, organizations, cross-sectorial networks, public value). Yet these wholes can only be claimed from a position that can be nothing but local and particular. Wholes (the universal) can only exist as particular – to follow the central dialectics of Hegel’s phenomenological analysis of the constitution of “spirit” (Hegel 1807/1988).

With Hegel (1807/1988) as a companion, this paper is exploring into the paradoxical constitu¬tion of managerial agency and reflexivity. The study engages four public executives in a narrative community sharing stories about agency and negotiating passages through its inherent paradox. The contribution of this study is to shed light on the dialectics of the metaphori¬cal structuring of agency: To establish agency, they continually define distances between the manager and the managed. Certain organizational topographies arise from this – often expressed in spatial and orientational metaphors about hierarchies, chains, causalities etc. But in defining these distances, the paradox is expressed and undermines the foundation of this agency-at-a-distance. In the stories, three examples are emphasized:

  • A struggle for recognition where the manager is seized into a Kafkaesque Trial by staff and users and where the basis for agency breaks down but where the manager is still able to sense need to stay in the situation.
  • A realization that a range of high profiled initiatives have been lost in an “implementa-tion gap”, facing powerlessness and the need to re-define a position to act from.
  • An experience of being vulnerable in the power games of the organization while, at the same time, seeking a ground for trust

Listening to these stories can contribute to a more dialectic understanding of managerial agency and reflexivity. First, the study may inspire us to reconsider the productivity of rational and spatial figures of speech. Both Stacey (2007) and Shotter (2008) seek to develop a way of describing responsive processes that is not dependent on rationalist and objectivist meta¬phors of autonomous subjects meeting pre-given realities that are regulated by their own hid¬den mechanisms. Following these lines, it is still possible to acknowledge that these meta¬phors are productive and constituent features in the becoming of managerial agency. Manage¬ment implies a distance between managing and the managed. However, the setting of distance is laden with paradox and gives rises to the above mentioned breakdowns of agency – e.g. be¬ing yourself objectified and victimized or facing the powerlessness of “the chain of implementa¬tion”. Also these breakdowns are important moments in the becoming of agency.

Secondly, the study teaches us to acknowledge the value of getting stuck. Often conversation and learning are describes as on-going and continuous processes expanding organically from within. Kempster and Stewart (2010) perceive learning as a process of legitimate peripheral participation where the novice is introduced to a situational curriculum and, in the end, be¬comes a master capable of coping with the dilemmas of the trade. To Barge and Little (2008), sensibility can be nurtured as an ability to create a “living unity” of contradictory obligations, and they emphasize the importance of not getting stuck in the process. In this study, contradic¬tions are real and unities are doomed. Any unity or “situational curriculum” is tenta¬tive and transitory. You will get stuck, and this will give rise to a new circle of breakdowns and restoration. What is of interest is the very dynamic of these struggles to define a metaphori¬cal structuring, even though it will be caught up by its own contradictions.

In the same way, we are invited to rehabilitate the hero story. Alvesson and Spicer (2011) seem ironic and eager to unmask our myths of the heroic leader in order to allow us to experi¬ence leadership as a more ambiguous phenomenon. But maybe the point of the hero story is not to mask moral ambiguity but rather a way to express and transform it. The journey of the hero is a struggle to transform dichotomies stemming from the paradox of agency (Campbell, 2008).

Listening to managers’ stories in this way, we can understand subjectivity as a fluid, narrative achievement that emerges in a circle of breakdowns and restorations. Being an “adaptive leader” (Bennington and Hartley, 2009) is not just to “cope” or to “tackle” difficult conditions “in” this context. Rather, it is to be this circle of breakdowns and restorations.

Shawna Malvini Redden
The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication,
Arizona State University, Tempe, USA

A crystalized approach to identity performances in airport security: Connecting multi-level discursive analysis with embodied, embedded ethnographic research

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), United States’ airport security has become an increasingly invasive, cumbersome, and expensive process. Fraught with tension and discomfort, “airport security” is a dirty phrase in the popular imagination, synonymous with long lines, unimpressive employees, and indignity. In fact, the TSA and its employees have featured as topic and punch line of news and popular culture stories. This image complicates the TSA’s mission to ensure the nation’s air travel safety and the ways that its officers interact with passengers.

Every day, nearly two million people fly domestically in the United States. Each passenger must interact with many of the approximately 50,000 agents in airports. How employees and travelers make sense of interactions in airport security contexts can have significant implications for individual wellbeing, personal and professional relationships, and organizational policies and practices. Furthermore, the meaning making of travelers and employees is complexly connected to broad social discourses and issues of identity.

To understand these issues, I focus on the communication implications of identity and emotional performances in airport security in light of discourses at macro, meso, and micro levels. Using discourse tracing (LeGreco & Tracy, 2009), I constructed the historical and discursive landscape of airport security, and via participant observation and various types of interviews, demonstrated how officers and passengers develop and perform identity, and the resulting interactional consequences.

My analysis suggests that passengers and Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) perform three main types of identities in airport security contexts—what I call Stereotypical, Ideal, and Mindful—which reflect different types and levels of discourse. Identity performances are intricately related to emotional processes and occur dynamically, in relation to the identity and emotional performances of others. Theoretical implications of the study direct attention to the ways that identity and emotional performances structure interactions, cause burdensome emotion management, and present organizational actors with tension, contradiction, and paradox to manage. Practical implications suggest consideration of passenger and TSO emotional wellbeing, policy framing, passenger agency, and preferred identities.

In completing this project, I negotiated a number of critical methodological issues that contribute to qualitative ethnographic studies and may be of use to other organizational researchers. First, combining a longitudinal approach with elements of discourse tracing (LeGreco & Tracy, 2009) allowed me to assess change over time, connecting “local” voices with historical context and concerns. In addition to spending an extensive amount of time in the scene, sifting through discourses at macro, meso, and micro levels enabled me to follow discursive changes in the data. Doing so contributes to a thriving body of discursive research seeking to clarify the ways that discourses are identified and written about in communication studies (Way, 2012). Also, comparing a variety of data sources both public (news, TSA policies, observations) and private (interviews), allowed me to “make strange” a very familiar environment, albeit one that has not been well-researched ethnographically.

However, my discourse tracing relied upon publicly available data (e.g. news, editorials, TSA published policies). While helpful in determining the messaging available to the average passengers, it certainly tells a partial story that could be complicated by comparing to behind-the-scenes information. However, in this research context, sharing sensitive security information is grounds for dismissal, so I did not seek to incorporate it into my study.

To complete this project, I navigated a sensitive research space without express organizational permission (although with proper IRB approvals). Doing ethnographic research in public spaces represented a major challenge for me, especially in a highly surveilled context like the airport which reserves potential repercussions for people who stand out. Going “undercover,” as it were, meant that I had to negotiate the ethics of collecting data from people unawares as well as the challenge of researching while being a full participant in the activity of travel. These logistical elements were intensified in regard to soliciting interviews from TSOs who acted suspiciously and occasionally hostile when approached. Furthermore, I completed my project with the lingering fear that my interest in security settings and TSO input could be misread by TSA officials and halted. 

Although my access issues represented significant hurdles in terms of gathering TSO interviews and making extensive observations in security checkpoints, I found that by soliciting interviews personally and via professional social media forums (e.g. LinkedIn), I was able to create connections with TSOs who, had I been integrated into the scene via formal mechanisms/permissions, may not have been as candid with me about their work and experiences. Additionally, by incorporating LinkedIn into my recruitment strategy, I was able to maintain a level of transparency for my participants some who initially feared I was an investigative reporter or critic out to lambast the TSA out of hand.

Aside from logistical and ethical challenges, this project also highlighted the incredibly embodied process of being a “human research instrument” (Garcia, 2000). Collecting data in the airport over several years required spending hundreds of hours in the airport and in the sky which took an immense physical and financial toll not well accounted for in the preceding prose. Furthermore, in order to experience the full gamut of passenger viewpoints, submitting to more than 100 hands-on screenings, a number of them highly invasive, required conscious and continuous meaning-making. Although, at the end of the project, I feel like these experiences encouraged me to have more sensitivity towards my participants, many were personally challenging. In light of this, I encourage other researchers who conduct physically and emotionally taxing work not only to keep a research journal as many qualitative methodology experts advise (Goodall, 2000; Tracy, 2013), but to also make “emotional context” notes in fieldnote write-ups. Throughout my data gathering, I added personal “contextual” descriptions to my fieldnotes so that when I went back through to analyze them, I could keep track of my feelings in the research scene. By doing this, I could make note of when emotional experiences outside of my personal norm influenced my interpretations in the scenes and in what ways.

James McDonald
University of Texas at San Antonio, USA
Department of Communication

Expanding Queer Reflexivity: Shifting Social Identities, Shifting Meta-theoretical Commitments

At the 2012 Qualitative Research in Management and Organization conference, I presented a paper in which I coined the term queer reflexivity. I conceptualized queer reflexivity as the practice of being reflexive about how a researcher’s social location, as well as the social location of her or his research participants, may evolve over the course of the research process (McDonald, 2013). Through an auto-ethnographic tale, I demonstrated the importance of engaging in reflexive accounts beyond static binary categories such as ‘straight’ and ‘women’ because of the differences and similarities that are masked by those labels, as well as because of the ways in which identifications are malleable and fluid. In this paper, I expand the notion of queer reflexivity by arguing that it isn’t just social identities that evolve during fieldwork and that are consequential in the field, but also the meta-theoretical commitments that are held by researchers. By meta-theoretical commitments, I refer to the epistemological, ontological, and axiological positions of researchers, as well as broad paradigms in which they situate their research.

In order to illustrate the importance of being reflexive about shifting meta-theoretical commitments, I turn once again to my personal experiences as a field researcher. From 2010 until 2012, I conducted a two year multi-sited ethnography of a campaign, spearheaded by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), entitled “Sit With Me.” The aim of this campaign coincides with the goal of NCWIT itself: increase the representation of women in the male-dominated field of “computing and I.T.”. When I first entered the field, I openly supported the goal of the “Sit With Me” campaign because of liberal feminist commitments that I held at the time. Thus, I strongly believed that getting more women into “computing and I.T.” was a question of social justice and was the only way to fight occupational segregation. However, as one would expect of a doctoral student who is constantly being exposed to new theories and literatures, my scholarly identity shifted over the course of my fieldwork. As opposed to continuing to occupational segregation through a liberal feminist lens, I became increasingly committed to theorizing occupational segregation through queer theory.

My shift from feminist to queer meta-theoretical commitments had important consequences in the field because my philosophy on difference came to diverge greatly than the philosophy on difference held by my research participants. Whereas the latter continued to strongly believe that the best way of addressing occupational segregation in “computing and I.T.” is by increasing the number of women who work in the field, my queer stance on difference increasingly led me to think differently. Viewed from a queer perspective, getting more women into segregated occupations such as “computing and I.T.” is not the best way of going about achieving social justice. The problem with such an approach is that categories such as “women” and “men” are problematic and unproductive because there are no essential features behind any one of those labels (Butler, 2004, 2007; Jagose, 1996; Meeks, 2007). Rather, queer scholars view social justice as being about de-naturalizing the very notions of gender and difference and deconstructing categories that work to control and limit expressions of difference. Consequently, whereas I entered the field sharing the same philosophical assumptions as my research participants, I left the field believing that those very philosophical assumptions were somewhat problematic.

My shifting meta-theoretical commitments were (and still are) especially a source of tension because of both my desire and promise to share the results of my study with my research participants and provide feedback that could help them further develop the “Sit With Me” campaign. However, my dissertation analysis and findings can only be understood within a queer meta-theoretical framework that is unfamiliar to and opposed by my research participants who developed the “Sit With Me” campaign. Consequently, it is impossible for me to share the results of my dissertation with my research participants without also engaging in a conversation with them about my queer philosophical stance on difference, why I have come to adopt that approach, and how it differs from the stance on difference that I held when I first began the project. The very practice of the expanded notion of queer reflexivity that I outline in this paper is contingent upon such conversations.

In sum, the practice of queer reflexivity entails engaging in an open dialogue, among researchers and participants, about not only their evolving social identities, as I argued previously (McDonald, 2013), but also about their evolving meta-theoretical and philosophical assumptions. Thus, the expanded notion of queer reflexivity that I put forth directs researchers to being upfront about their meta-theoretical commitments at the beginning of the research process and considering how they are different from and similar to the philosophies that their research participants hold. However, these conversations need to be ongoing throughout the research process, as the views of both researchers and participants are subject to change. These conversations are crucial to enable participants to understand how and why researchers came to certain findings, recommendations, and conclusions as opposed to others. Moreover, these conversations are a unique opportunity for both researchers and research participants to learn about and consider philosophical assumptions that may be different from those that they held prior to entering the project. In addition to fostering better learning about different meta-theoretical frameworks, the practice of queer reflexivity enables researchers to better contextualize their research, as well as debunk assumptions about researcher objectivity by openly recognizing – and celebrating – that all findings are mediated by meta-theoretical assumptions, philosophical stances, and social identities.

Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (2007). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Jagose, A. (1996). Queer theory: An introduction. New York: New York University Press. McDonald, J. (2013). Coming out in the field: A queer reflexive account of shifting researcher identity. Management Learning, 44(2), 127-143.  Meeks, C. (2007). Queer theory. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Retrieved 12 June, 2011, from http://www.sociologyencyclopedia.com/subscriber/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_chunk_g978140512433123_ss1-3

Chris Mclachlan & Reece Garcia
University of Leeds, UK

Philosophy as Praxis? Navigating Ontology and Subjectivity in Qualitative Interviewing

The aim of our presentation is to offer personal accounts of how we, as PhD students located in a Business School, may navigate through different, competing philosophies in order to inform and enact the methodological decisions we make in the organisational research process. As such, we seek to question what the precise purpose of our philosophical endeavours are and how it is we come to apply these perspectives in situ, when actually conducting and collecting our research. For example: is there a concrete way in which ‘to be’ a social constructionist in an interview setting? How can one ‘be’ a critical realist during research? Our primary motivation for asking these questions comes as a worry for what Shotter (1999) describes as ‘after-the-fact justificatory rhetoric’, whereby methodological decisions made in relation to one’s philosophy are slotted into research accounts retrospectively and even superficially at the stage of analysis (Maxwell, 2012). Therefore, we hope to understand the extent to which philosophy can offer an embedded, antecedent instrumentalism in our research, guiding us with a view on the social world which can necessarily enrich our research at the point of data collection.
Before explicating these ideas, we focus on two philosophical schools of thought that are both common and popular amongst Business School students conducting qualitative research: critical realism and social constructionism (Brown & Roberts, forthcoming). Despite being immersed in the benefits and potential shortcomings of each perspective, the problem remains as to how we can put these into practice during our research, and before turning to our accounts of how this might be possible we outline some of the key problems that PhD students encounter in navigating through this philosophical realm.

Firstly, the use of critical realism has become an increasingly popular approach (Brown & Roberts, forthcoming; Brown, 2013) for many Business School students as it ostensibly offers a workable centre ground between positivism and social constructionism; denoting a mind-independent, ontological realism and concept-dependent, epistemological relativism (Bhaskar, 1978; 1979). Additionally, we discuss some of the broader tenets of the approach that are tempting for PhD students to adopt, and which we believe contribute to both its misuse and cursory application. Much in the same vein, this - in the most general sense - is the retort from the other sides of the spectrum too, suggesting that because it simply straddles both perspectives it is a rather trivial and misunderstood philosophical approach.

Indeed, the use of the term ‘critical’ is beguiling due to its suitably radical undertones, by which having the tagline ‘critical realism’ over one’s research is a convenient notion that suggests an engagement with the more taken for granted aspects of our social phenomena (Pawson, 2006). Conversely, however, social constructionists oppose the very notion of an ontological reality, and a comparison is made with Berger & Luckmann (1966) claiming that the “…social world [is] a comprehensive and given reality confronting the individual in a manner analogous to the reality of the natural world…” Ergo, the social world is one which is constructed through the institutionalisation, habitualisation and legitimation of our linguistic, interactional and discursive activity. But then what, as Elder Vass (2012) suggests, are we to say of the overbearingly realist manifestation of material and natural essences? Now, whilst the arguments are by no means exhaustive and we have no intention to canvass the debate, we remind ourselves that as Business School students we are not philosophers, yet engaging with these ideas is necessarily inclusive of the titular goal of our studies: PhD means becoming a ‘Doctor of Philosophy’! And if we are to be serious about how purposive our philosophical studies can be when conducting qualitative research, it is important to understand some of the basic methodological implications of each. To illustrate these concerns we draw upon our own personal experiences as PhD students, focusing both on:

1) The influence of ontology and subjectivity when conducting interviews
2) The expression of these ideas in a specifically in gendered context.

Firstly, we reflexively explore how it is one can adopt and ‘act out’ philosophy in the actual moment of an interview setting in order to make sense of the encounter (Weick, 1995). Miller & Glassner (2011) have aided understanding on this issue, suggesting that during interviews we seek to understand the whats – the substance of the content under investigation – and the hows – how people construct this content – so as to gain an insight into the frames people use to understand their social worlds. This approach therefore makes sense of the interview by distinguishing between the substantive ontological and constitutive epistemological aspects, highlighting a potential resonance with a realist framework. But what if we decide upon a social constructionist perspective, which essentially criticises critical realism for focusing on abstract concepts at the expense of ignoring the spontaneity of our interview experience? (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). These ideas are then considered as part of an ongoing longitudinal study of familial gender roles, and the propensity of these roles to change over the course of redundancy. Regarding ontology, we are interested to see if the frame of reference (external to the interview setting) from which respondents draw their conceptions of sex and gender changes over the course of the study. Alternatively, are we to understand these as epistemological changes? To quote Miller and Glassner (2011), are we examining changes in how people construct these concepts – and subsequently whether the ‘epistemic fallacy’ is indeed a viable concern? Continuing the theme of the presentation, at various points this research has been informed both by a broadly realist conceptualisation of gender relations (Connell, 1987) and a constructionist conceptualisation (West and Zimmerman, 1987). The discussion will focus on the practical implications of navigating the interview process when cognizant of both realist and constructionist principles; along with the notion of having to revise and reorient philosophical commitments in accordance with these progressions. Other considerations include epistemological concerns stemming from attributing authentic status to respondents’ social experience, to the intersubjectivity of the interview process (Cunliffe, 2011).

Karolina Mikołajewska
Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland

Hosts, guests and textualized selves: subjectivity in (privatized) sharing economy

The proposed paper is based on preliminary analysis of over 30 qualitative interviews as well as fieldnotes from ethnographic observations conducted in 2013 among CouchSurfing users for the purpose of a PhD dissertation in organization studies . A starting point for this research is the conviction that the field of institutions related to travel, mobility and hospitality has become one of the battlegrounds for global negotiations of new forms of organizational order, in that growth of institutions based on social networking, crowdsourcing or blurring divisions between private and common goods may be a symptom of the dismantling of modern ways of organizing mass tourism.

The paper seeks to explore how users engaged in hospitality exchange networks (among which CouchSurfing is most widely used) make sense (Weick, 1995) of their social roles connected to hosting and visiting other members of the community while travelling. This general question has to be explained in the context of structural changes, which the network undergoes. The portal has grown significantly within the last two years and has over 6 millions users worldwide. The exponential growth has coincided with turning its status from an NGO to a B-Corporation (a relatively new organizational form, which is about to “power of business to solve social and environmental problems” ). There is already evidence showing that some staunch members of the voluntarily-built network have not reacted to this change lightly and have left the portal or criticized its policy heavily. Others, however, either do not even know about the change of the legal status or are not interested in it as long as the website is not payable. There are some users who support the leaders’ decision to commercialize the organization.

The paper aims at exploring the accounts of subjectivity of CS users from the standpoint of a particular (yet an open-ended work-in-progress) theoretical frame – the tension between gift and market economy (cf. Carrier, 1991; Mauss, 1954; Polanyi, 1944). I am particularly interested in accounts of production of the textualized subjectivity (Illouz, 2007, p. 78) in the context of immaterial labour (cf. Hardt & Negri, 2000). That is, I am exploring meanings related to “free labour”, in which network participants engage themselves on cultural as biopolitical level, in line with what Mark Coté and Jennifer Pybus write about immaterial labour 2.0 (2011).

The biopolitical level of engagement is tackled in my study by the question of meanings ascribed to trust and engagement of private self in the public sphere of the virtual network. I am interested in the tension between the necessity of sharing personal information and fear of being “revealed”, not protected as a public and private persona, and taken advantage of by the CS headquarters. Apart from that I am investigating the tension between extensive production of proof of one’s good intentions versus the loopholes in the trust system.

When the cultural level is concerned, I am interested most of all in the tension between the pre-defined, official organizational culture and emergent bottom-up cultures and settings and negotiated orders (Strauss, 1978) between individuals who have to work out a way of interacting each time they meet in an actual situation, which is enabled by the constant creation of virtual subjectivities (Coté & Pybus, 2011).

Carrier, J. G. (1991). Gifts, Commodities, and Social Relations: A Maussian View of Exchange. Sociological Forum, 6, 119–136. Coté, M., & Pybus, J. (2011). Learning to Immaterial Labour 2.0: Facebook and Social Networks. In Cognitive Capitalism, Education and Digital Labor. New York: Peter Lang. Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2000). Empire. London, England - Cambridge, Massechusetts: Harvard University Press.
Illouz, E. (2007). Cold Intimacies. The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge, UK - Malden, USA: Polity Press. Mauss, M. (1954). The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. (Routledge, Ed.)New York and London WW Norton (p. 164). Routledge.
Polanyi, K. (1944). The Great Transformation. Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 59, p. 630). Beacon Press. Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in Organizations (Foundations for Organizational Science). Star (p. 235).