Business and Management
Oxford Brookes Business School
This article examines the selection process in a pilot project aimed at digitalizing disabled people through distributing computers. Particular attention is paid to the complexities generated by an allocation assessment form, designed to help these people improve their social interactions through electronic media. There is a paucity of discussions on forms in the organization studies literature but when studied, an over reliance on semantics such that their enactment in embodied sociomaterial performances is easily glossed over. Our problematic revolves around how forms and their surrounding sociomaterial performances constitute, but are also are transformed by, subjects, objects and organizational relations. The contribution of this article is, therefore, to address the embodied enactments and sociomaterial practices that are embedded within these allocation processes. So, for example, assessors in the project deviated from a strict interpretation of the questions on the form and sometimes ignored clients’ responses so as to prevent formal allocations of computers from being seen as illegitimate, and potentially disruptive to the organization’s objectives of distributing digital devices. This provided us with a focus on the sociomaterial and embodied relations that are enacted within the selection process and how these place limits on, but also possibilities for, those allocating and those seeking to be allocated computers. One implication of the research is to elaborate how humanistic and normalizing assumptions about the need for sociability that are inscribed on the assessment form could unintendedly reinforce the marginalization of disabled people. The case study shows how digitalizing disabled people is a complex sociomaterial process that is conditioned by the embodied performances and textual devices deployed.
As a result of scandals concerning sexual harassment in Hollywood and in the media, as well as questions regarding the size of the gender pay gap, considerable attention has recently been paid to questions of gender diversity and discrimination in organisations. Gender issues would appear particularly salient within the veterinary profession, not least because women are beginning to outnumber men as practitioners. While this research on veterinary surgeons was not initially focused on gender, as the study progressed gender became an issue of such importance that it could not be ignored. Although ‘feminized in numerical terms’, the veterinary profession and ‘its professional structure and culture remains gendered masculine’. Translated into practice, this means that although 76 per cent of vet school graduates are currently female, disproportionately few have risen or are rising through the hierarchy. On the surface it is easy to rationalise this away partly by simply stating how many female vets appear to sacrifice career for family, but the authors’ aim is to go beyond merely repeating and reinforcing the common sense view of female reproduction and parenting as the sole explanation for gender inequality within this and other professions.
Apart from a few paragraphs reminiscing on how, in response to a publisher contacting us, Jill, Marilyn and I founded Gender, Work and Organization combined with a few comments on its evolution as a leading journal in our field, this article largely summarizes and seeks to develop my lifelong interests in discourses and practices of masculinity. It pays tribute to my doctoral students and/or research colleagues with whom many of these ideas concerning masculinities were shaped. The article then surveys the literature on discourses and practices of masculinities through the three waves: the unitarist, the pluralist and, finally, the performativist approach to discourses and practices of masculinity. A central argument of the article is that although each wave has contributed something of importance to the critical examination of masculinities, none of them fully interrogate identity to theorize how our attachment to the security that it promises is illusory. Posthumanist feminists come closest to realizing this and seeking an alternative embodied and ethical engagement with, rather than a competitive elevation of self over, the other. In the conclusion, there is a brief comment on how the global backlash from the political right has made struggles against dominant masculinities all the more urgent.
Veterinary surgeons (vets) provide us with a fascinating platform to study anthropocentric and zoocentric beliefs, which we argue are gendered in both their genesis and practice. Gendered in the sense of the double meaning of our title ‘who's a good boy then?’, which reflects both a default male gender and a patronizing masculine claim to mastery over the animal. In addition, veterinary practices are organized in specifically masculine ways that, despite the demographic feminization of the profession, are oblivious to distinctively gendered practices and concerns and thus to the reproduction of gendered inequalities. The research also focuses on how there is a tendency for vets to neglect their own bodies for the sake of the animal's welfare (zoocentrism) but, at the same time, this reflects and reproduces masculine anthropocentric demands for human supremacy involving linear rational and effective control over the animal as a necessary part of their commercial and career success. In the empirical presentation, we show how organizational gendering within the gendered organization of veterinary surgery occurs at all levels, sometimes openly and explicitly, but also covertly and implicitly. In seeking to interrogate the covert and implicit in gender asymmetry, we draw on post‐humanist feminist philosophical perspectives that facilitate our challenging of the gendered anthropocentric organization of veterinary work.
Is vetting a craft that must be learned owing to the limitations of scientific discipline, or simply a question of practice makes perfect? This question arose from our empirical research on veterinary surgeons (vets), who we found were often struggling with the divergence between the precise and unambiguous knowledge underlying the training and the unpredictability and imprecision of their everyday practices. These are comparatively underexplored issues insofar as the literature on vets tends to be descriptive and statistical, focusing primarily on clinical matters and associated human-animal interactions. Our cliché title has a question mark because while many vets remain embedded in the disciplined ‘certainties’ and causal regularities within their training, in practice this ordered world is rarely realized, and they are faced with indeterminacy where the ‘perfect’ solution eludes them. Vets often turn these unrealistic ideals of expertise back in on themselves, thus generating doubt and insecurity for any failure in their practices. In analysing vets’ experiences, we pay attention to the anatomical models of science, where linear causal analysis is expected to provide orderly and predictable outcomes or ‘right’ answers to problems, as well as notions of expertise that turn out to be illusory.
The literature on resistance has largely attended to human agents whether in terms of collective action or individual subjectivity. Through focusing on the ‘missing masses’ or mundane material artefacts, this paper seeks to show how actor network theory (ANT) can advance our understanding of resistance. Drawing upon ethnographic research during a workplace dispute, this study explores how material artefacts as well as human actors reflect heterogeneous relations that together successfully mobilized opposition to the imposition of compulsory redundancies in a UK university. In so far as the mingling and entanglement of humans and non‐humans have been largely neglected in accounts of resistance, we believe that an ANT informed account contributes in distinctive ways to this literature.
This article reflects upon careering, securing identities and ethical subjectivities in academia in the context of audit, accountability and control surrounding new managerialism in UK Business Schools. Drawing upon empirical research, we illustrate how rather than resisting an ever-proliferating array of governmental technologies of power, academics chase the illusive sense of a secure self through ‘careering’; a frantic and frenetic individualistic strategy designed to moderate the pressures of excessive managerial competitive demands. Emerging from our data was an increased portrayal of academics as subjected to technologies of power and self, simultaneously being objects of an organizational gaze through normalizing judgements, hierarchical observations and examinations. Still, this was not a monolithic response, as there were those who expressed considerable disquiet as well as a minority who reported ways to seek out a more embodied engagement with their work. In analysing the careerism and preoccupation with securing identities that these technologies of visibility and self-discipline produce, we draw on certain philosophical deliberations and especially the later Foucault on ethics and active engagement to explore how academics might refuse the ways they have been constituted as subjects through new managerial regimes.
There have been numerous explanations of the 2008 global financial crisis, ranging from the greed of the bankers to excessive deregulation due to neoliberalism and the financialization of everything. This paper argues that a discussion of parallels between the crisis and leadership discourses can generate new insights into both. Through an empirical study of the subjectivity of leaders in a UK building society, discourses around both leadership and the crisis are argued to reflect and reproduce similar taken‐for‐granted assumptions about subjectivity and representations of organizational and economic life. These are grounded in the belief that leaders are ‘Masters of the Universe’, who are able to predict and secure the future. The authors believe that these assumptions and representations contributed to the crisis and are now in danger of producing yet another bubble.
Arguing that binaries and their relationship to masculinities operate to constrain the development of corporeal or embodied ethics in organizations, this article seeks to advance their deconstruction and dissolution. If bodies are to matter, binaries need to shatter. First, it deconstructs the binary by examining the epistemological space between representations of life, language, labour and gender and the assumptions of subjectivity that are their conditions of possibility. Recognizing deconstruction to have some limitations in terms of subscribing to cognitive and perhaps masculine discourses, the article turns secondly to two literatures that seek to dissolve binary constructions ontologically. By combining epistemological deconstructions and ontological dissolutions, the second of these approaches facilitates the development of an embodied and embedded approach to organizational ethics that disavows dominant discourses of masculinity. The article then has two central objectives of first documenting the dominance of masculine, disembodied binary thinking in organizations and society and second, of examining ways through which it may be deconstructed and dissolved so as to enable an embodied ethics of engagement in organizations.
This article demonstrates the importance of studying insecurity in relation to identities at work. Drawing upon empirical research with business school academics in the context of the proliferation of managerialist controls of audit, accountability, monitoring and performativity, we illustrate how insecurities in the form of fragile and insecure academic selves are variously manifested. Emerging from our data were three forms of insecurity—imposters, aspirants and those preoccupied with existential concerns, and we analyse these in the context of psychoanalytic, sociological and philosophical frameworks. In so doing, we make a three-fold contribution to the organization studies literature: first, we develop an understanding of identities whereby they are treated as a topic and not merely a resource for studying something else; second, we demonstrate how insecurity and identity are more nuanced and less monolithic concepts than has sometimes been deployed in the literature; and third, we theorize the concepts of identity and insecurity as conditions and consequences of one another rather than monocausally related. Through this analysis of insecure identities, insightful understandings into the contemporary bittersweet experiences of working in academia, and specifically in business schools are developed that could prove fruitful for future research within and beyond this occupational group.