Identity is core concept as well as a key focal point for empirical analysis in institutional theory. It was part of the very early formulations of institutional theory by Selznick (1957), Berger & Luckmann (1966), DiMaggio & Powell (1983), and Zucker (1983), who all held that institutionalization involves the production of identities, both individual and organizational. Glynn (2008) convincingly asserts that the recent interest in identity within institutional theory is not surprising for albeit the different analytic aims of each, identity and institutional theories both take into account the role of meaning in constructing organizations and organizational practices; and, both take interest in issues of legitimacy, although on different levels of analysis.
The recent empirical studies that combine and theorize the concepts of institutions and identity have been focusing on two central lines of research. First, scholars document the production of individual and organizational identities as an outcome of institutional pressures in mature and merging fields, especially those characterized by multiple and conflicting logics. Second, scholars conceptualize identity not only as an outcome of institutional pressures but as the mechanism of institutional work by which institutions are established, maintained and transformed.
Despite these impressive lines of research, the concept of identity is still quite under-theorized within institutional theory. A central unresolved issue is the epistemological status of identity. While many institutional scholars refer to identity as both a conceptual and an empirical construct, the distinction between the two is at times quite blurred. Identity appears in various contexts and levels of analysis without explicating its role. Many scholars seem to refer to identity as a descriptive rather than an analytical construct. In some research, identity is hardly defined, and scholars use it as if its meanings and dynamics are given and self-evident. As in other disciplinary discourses, "identity" may thus mean too much, too little, or nothing at all. Moreover, the concept of identity and its tangled relations to institutional processes is frequently left unexplored. More often than not, "identity" is left outside the set of notions the researcher explicitly articulates and problematizes.
This sub-theme 07 attempts to unpack "identity" in institutional processes, by presenting and discussing empirical and theoretical studies relating to identity and institutions on various levels while taking a reflective and critical look at our own uses of the concept. We invite papers that explore individual, organizational, and field level identities in the context of institutional processes, whether with a theoretical, methodological, or empirical focus.