Sub-theme 49: Affective Ontologies for Performative Organizations

Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou
King's College London, UK
Marianna Fotaki
Warwick Business School, UK
Mark Thompson
University of Cambridge, UK

Call for Papers

Writers within the 'practice turn' emphasize a performative worldview, where "our world is increasingly in flux and interconnected, a world where social entities appear as the result of ongoing work and complex machinations" (Nicolini, 2012: 2). However, most are less likely to ascribe a pivotal role to affect in animating the 'ongoing work' of organizational practice. Despite a central focus on the emergent and provisional within organizations, little explicit attention has been paid thus far by practice-based researchers to the role of affective factors in conditioning practices of 'organizing'.

We seek submissions responding to this perceived lacuna in studies of organizing, from researchers interested in exploring the explanatory value of an emergent 'ontology' of affect in playing a centrally mediating role between traditional dualistic oppositions such as biology/society, structure/agency, macro/micro (e.g. Harré, 1986; Gallois, 1993; Williams & Bendelow, 1998). Of particular inspiration are interdisciplinary studies that reflect a broader realisation from within natural and social sciences (e.g. Damasio, 2003; Barbalet, 1998, respectively) of the interlinkages between emotion and cognitive-rational behaviour, such that one is required for the other to function (Thompson, 2012). In turn, an ontology of affect linking unfolding emotions to broader social structures invites explicit consideration of the mundane political implications of affectively charged processes in conditioning organizational performance (e.g. Fineman, 2008; Voronov & Vince, 2012): in short, the social implications of what we feel. While there are growing calls for a more effective integration of emotion into the study of organizing from within various traditions such as non-representational theories (see Nayak, 2008; Lorino et al., 2011) or psychoanalysis (Fotaki et al., 2012), there seems to be only limited dialogue across these strands of theorizing.

In this sub-theme we aim to create a space that will bring together scholars from these and other currents, in order to attend to the under-explored role of affective experience in conditioning organizational practice. We invite theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions that would include, but not be limited to:

  • The role of affective mediation in organizational practice
  • The contribution of an emotionally-coloured framing of relations of power in organizations
  • The rethinking of links between affect and our understanding of multi-dimensionality in organizational performance
  • Relationships between emotion, interpretation, discourse, and organizational outcomes
  • Affect and organizational ethics
  • Affect, organizational identification, and motivation
  • Emotional wellbeing in organizations
  • The ontological implications of taking 'emotions seriously'
  • Governance and regulation of emotional labour and investment
  • The role of emotion in processual thinking
  • The relationship between emotionality and spatiality in non-representational epistemologies
  • Psychoanalytic and psychosocial conceptualizations of emotions



Barbalet, J.M. (2001): Emotion, Social Theory and Social Structure: A Macrosociological Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Damasio, Antonio (2003): Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain. London: Heinemann.
Fineman, Stephen (2008): The Emotional Organization: Passions and Power. London: Blackwell.
Fotaki, Marianna, Susan Long & Howard S. Schwartz (2012): 'What Can Psychoanalysis Offer Organization Studies Today? Taking Stock of Current Developments and Thinking about Future Directions.' Organization Studies, 33 (9), pp. 1104–1120.
Gallois, Cynthia (1993): 'The language and communication of emotion: Universal, interpersonal, or intergroup?' American Behavioral Scientist, 36 (3), pp. 309–338.
Harré, Rom (ed.) (1986): The Social Construction of Emotions. Oxford: Blackwell.
Lorino, Philippe, Benoît Tricard & Yves Clot (2011): Research Methods for Non-Representational Approaches to Organizational Complexity: The Dialogical Mediated Inquiry.' Organization Studies, 32 (6), pp. 769–801.
Nayak, Ajit (2008): 'On the Way to Theory: A Processual Approach.' Organization Studies, 29 (2), pp. 173–190.
Nicolini, Davide (2012): Practice Theory, Work, and Organization: An Introduction. Oxford: OUP.
Thompson, Mark (2012): 'People, practice, and technology: restoring Giddens' broader philosophy to the study of information systems.' Information and Organization, 22(3), pp. 188–207.
Voronov, Maxim & Russ Vince (2012): 'Integrating emotions into the analysis of institutional work.' Academy of Management Review, 37 (1), pp. 58–81.
Williams, Simon J. & Gillian Bendelow (1998): The Lived Body: Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues. London: Routledge.


Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou is Research Associate in Social Science at King's College London, UK. His interests include: the anthropology of public policy and organizations, concepts and practices of involvement, creativity, affect, performativity and spatiality. His PhD research was a 2-year ethnographic study of patient engagement and advocacy in the UK NHS, focusing on the role of affect in the changing politics and ethics of public organization.
Marianna Fotaki is Professor of Business Ethics in Warwick Business School, UK. Before joining academia Marianna has worked as a medical doctor for Médecins du Monde and as the EU resident senior adviser to the governments of Russia, Georgia and Armenia for seven years. Her research on the marketization of public policy, health inequalities, and gender and sexuality appeared in 'Human Relations', 'British Journal of Management', 'Sociology of Health and Illness', 'Social Science & Medicine', 'Organization', 'Organization Studies', 'Journal of Social Policy', 'Public Administration'.
Mark Thompson is Senior Lecturer in Information Systems at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, and Strategy Director of London-based public services specialists Methods. His research interests include the linkages between knowing, affect, and a process ontology. He has published articles touching on these themes in 'Academy of Management Review', 'Organization Science', 'Information and Organization' and 'Journal of Management Studies'.