35th EGOS Colloquium

Enlightening the Future:
The Challenge for Organizations


University of Edinburgh Business School

July 4–6, 2019

Edinburgh, United Kingdom




Sub-theme 53: Discourse, Organizations and Society: The Constitutive and Performative Role of Language

Andrea Whittle
Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Eero Vaara
Aalto University School of Business, Finland
Frank Mueller
Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

This sub-theme will invite papers that examine the role of language and discourse in and about organizations. A number of themes have been developed through the study of organizational discourse that require further exploration and advancement. Research on the discursive aspects of legitimation has developed our understanding of how organizations seek to establish, defend or repair their legitimacy (Creed et al., 2002; Phillips et al., 2004; Suddaby & Greenwood, 2005; Vaara & Monin, 2010; Vaara & Tienari, 2008; Whittle et al., 2015). Discursive approaches have also made major strides in advancing theories on the reproduction and repair of trust in organizations and professions and how accountability is performed through discourse when organizations and their leaders are subject to public scrutiny for their organizational actions (Hargie et al., 2010; Tourish & Hargie, 2012; Mueller et al., 2015; Whittle & Mueller, 2015; Whittle et al., 2016).
Another significant body of work has revealed the role that language plays in the exercise of power within and between organizations (Vaara et al., 2005; Hardy & Thomas, 2014) and the political dimensions of the relationship between organizations, economies and society (Banerjee, 2003; Hajer, 1995; Vaara, 2014; Kelsey et al., 2016). Discursive approaches have also made major strides in the advancement of understanding of sensemaking within organizations (Brown, 1995, 1998; Currie & Brown, 2003; Rouleau & Balogun, 2011; Tourish & Robson 2006; Kwon et al., 2014) and societal sensemaking following major crises and scandals (Brown, 2005, 2004, 2000; Brown & Jones, 2000; Brown et al., 2012; Gephart, 1993; Hardy & Phillips, 1999; Boudes & Laroche, 2009).
A range of theoretical approaches have been developed to address the role of discourse, including post-structuralist approaches (Knights & Willmott, 1989; Knights & Morgan 1991), critical discourse analysis (Balogun et al., 2011), narrative perspectives (Czarniawska, 1997; Gabriel, 2000; Brown et al., 2008), rhetoric (Jarzabkowski & Sillince, 2007), ethnomethodology and conversation analysis (Samra-Fredericks, 2005; Mueller et al., 2013; Whittle et al., 2015; Whittle et al., 2016) and metaphorical language (Cornelissen et al., 2008; Heracleous & Jacobs, 2008).
We invite papers on the role of discourse within, and about, organizations that examine the ways in which organizations are responding to the major challenges of our time: globalization, migration, financial crises and scandals, inequality, corruption, environmental crises and organizational disasters. The sub-theme will invite scholars from a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives that share an interest in the constitutive and performative aspects of discourse, including critical discourse analysis, narrative analysis, metaphor analysis, discursive psychology, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. Of particular interest will be the relationship between organizations and wider society. As such, the analytical focus of papers is expected to be on topics such as power, inequality, ethics, legitimation, trust, responsibility, agency and accountability.


  • Balogun, J., Jarzabkowski, P., & Vaara, E. (2011): “Selling, resistance and reconciliation: A critical discursive approach to subsidiary role evolution in MNEs.” Journal of International Business Studies, 42 (6), 765–786.
  • Banerjee, S.B. (2003): “Who sustains whose development? Sustainable development and the reinvention of nature.” Organization Studies, 24 (1), 143–180.
  • Boudes, T., & Laroche, H. (2009): “Taking off the heat: Narrative sensemaking in post-crisis inquiry reports.” Organization Studies, 30 (4), 377–396.
  • Brown, A.D. (1995): “Managing understandings: Politics, symbolism, niche marketing and the quest for legitimacy in IT implementation.” Organization Studies, 16 (6), 951–969.
  • Brown, A.D. (1998): “Narrative, politics and legitimacy in an IT implementation.” Journal of Management Studies, 35 (1), 35–58.
  • Brown, A.D. (2000): “Making sense of inquiry sensemaking.” Journal of Management Studies, 37 (1), 45–75.
  • Brown, A.D. (2004): “Authoritative sensemaking in a public inquiry report.” Organization Studies, 25 (1), 95–112.
  • Brown, A.D. (2005): “Making sense of the collapse of Barings Bank.” Human Relations, 58 (12), 1579–1604.
  • Brown, A.D., & Jones, M. (2000): “Honourable Members and Dishonourable Deeds: Sensemaking, Impression Management and Legitimation in theArms to Iraq Affair.” Human Relations, 53 (5), 655–689.
  • Brown, A.D., Stacey, P., & Nandhakumar, J. (2008): “Making sense of sensemaking narratives.” Human Relations, 61 (8), 1035–1062.
  • Brown, A.D., Ainsworth, S., & Grant, D. (2012): “The rhetoric of institutional change.” Organization Studies, 33 (3), 297–321.
  • Cornelissen, J.P., Oswick, C., Thøger Christensen, L., & Phillips, N. (2008): “Metaphor in organizational research: Context, modalities and implications for research.” Organization Studies, 29 (1), 7–22.
  • Creed, W.D., Scully, M.A., & Austin, J.R. (2002): “Clothes make the person? The tailoring of legitimating accounts and the social construction of identity.” Organization Science, 13 (5), 475–496.
  • Currie, G., & Brown, A.D. (2003): “A narratological approach to understanding processes of organizing in a UK hospital.” Human Relations, 56 (5), 563–586.
  • Czarniawska, B. (1997): Narrating the Organization. Dramas of Institutional Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gabriel, Y. (2000): Storytelling in Organizations. Facts, Fictions, and Fantasies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gephart, R.P. (1993): “The textual approach: Risk and blame in disaster sensemaking.” Academy of Management Journal, 36 (6), 1465–1514.
  • Hajer, M.A. (1995): The Politics of Environmental Discourse. Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Hardy, C., & Phillips, N. (1999): “No joking matter: Discursive struggle in the Canadian refugee system.” Organization Studies, 20 (1), 1–24.
  • Hardy, C., & Thomas, R. (2014): “Strategy, discourse and practice: The intensification of power.” Journal of Management Studies, 51 (2), 320–348.
  • Hargie, O., Stapleton, K., & Tourish, D. (2010): “Interpretations of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: attributions of blame and avoidance of responsibility.” Organization, 17 (6), 721–742.
  • Heracleous, L., & Jacobs, C.D. (2008): “Understanding organizations through embodied metaphors.” Organization Studies, 29 (1), 45–78.
  • Jarzabkowski, P., & Sillince, J. (2007): “A rhetoric-in-context approach to building commitment to multiple strategic goals.” Organization Studies, 28 (11), 1639–1665.
  • Kelsey, D., Mueller, F., Whittle, A., & KhosraviNik, M. (2016): “Financial crisis and austerity: Interdisciplinary concerns in critical discourse studies.” Critical Discourse Studies, 13 (1), 1–19.
  • Knights, D., & Morgan, G. (1991): “Corporate strategy, organizations, and subjectivity: A critique.” Organization Studies, 12 (2), 251–273.
  • Knights, D., & Willmott, H. (1989): “Power and subjectivity at work: From degradation to subjugation in social relations.” Sociology, 23 (4), 535–558.
  • Kwon, W., Clarke, I., & Wodak, R. (2014): “Micro‐level discursive strategies for constructing shared views around strategic issues in team meetings.” Journal of Management Studies, 51 (2), 265–290.
  • Mueller, F., Whittle, A., Gilchrist, A., & Lenney, P. (2013): “Politics and strategy practice: An ethnomethodologically-informed discourse analysis perspective.” Business History, 55 (7), 1168–1199.
  • Mueller, F., Carter, C., & Whittle, A. (2015): “Can audit (still) be trusted?” Organization Studies, 36 (9), 1171–1203.
  • Phillips, N., Lawrence, T. B., & Hardy, C. (2004): “Discourse and institutions.” Academy of Management Review, 29 (4), 635–652.
  • Rouleau, L., & Balogun, J. (2011): “Middle managers, strategic sensemaking, and discursive competence.” Journal of Management Studies, 48 (5), 953–983.
  • Samra-Fredericks, D. (2005): “Strategic Practice, ‘Discourse’ and the Everyday Interactional Constitution of ‘Power Effects’.” Organization, 12 (6), 803–841.
  • Suddaby, R., & Greenwood, R. (2005): “Rhetorical strategies of legitimacy.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 50 (1), 35–67.
  • Tourish, D., & Hargie, O. (2012): “Metaphors of failure and the failures of metaphor: A critical study of root metaphors used by bankers in explaining the banking crisis.” Organization Studies, 33 (8), 1045–1069.
  • Tourish, D., & Robson, P. (2006): “Sensemaking and the distortion of critical upward communication in organizations.” Journal of Management Studies, 43 (4), 711–730.
  • Vaara, E. (2014): “Struggles over legitimacy in the Eurozone crisis: Discursive legitimation strategies and their ideological underpinnings.” Discourse & Society, 25 (4), 500–518.
  • Vaara, E., & Monin, P. (2010): “A recursive perspective on discursive legitimation and organizational action in mergers and acquisitions.” Organization Science, 21 (1), 3–22.
  • Vaara, E., & Tienari, J. (2008): “A discursive perspective on legitimation strategies in multinational corporations.” Academy of Management Review, 33 (4), 985–993.
  • Vaara, E., Tienari, J., Piekkari, R., & Säntti, R. (2005): “Language and the circuits of power in a merging multinational corporation.” Journal of Management Studies, 42 (3), 595–623.
  • Whittle, A., & Mueller, F. (2016): “Accounting for the banking crisis: repertoires of agency and structure.” Critical Discourse Studies, 13 (1), 20–40.
  • Whittle, A., Carter, C., & Mueller, F. (2014): “‘Above the fray’: Interests, discourse and legitimacy in the audit field.” Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 25 (8), 783–802.
  • Whittle, A., Housley, W., Gilchrist, A., Mueller, F., & Lenney, P. (2015): “Category predication work, discursive leadership and strategic sensemaking.” Human Relations, 68 (3), 377–407.
  • Whittle, A., Mueller, F., Gilchrist, A., & Lenney, P. (2016): “Sensemaking, sense-censoring and strategic inaction: The discursive enactment of power and politics in a multinational corporation.” Organization Studies, 37 (9), 1323–1351.

Andrea Whittle is a Professor of Management and Organization Studies at Newcastle University Business School, UK. Her research is driven by a passion for understanding the role of language in business and management settings and is informed by theories and methodologies from the fields of discourse analysis, narrative, discursive psychology, ethnography, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. She has studied the role of discourse across range of topic areas, including management consultants, identity and identification, branding, organizational change, technology, strategy and the global financial crisis.
Eero Vaara is a Professor of Organization and Management at Aalto University School of Business, Helsinki, Finland. His research focuses on organizational and strategic change that he examines from discursive and narrative perspectives. Eero has received several awards for his contributions, including the first Roland Calori Prize for the Best Paper published in ‘Organization Studies’ (2002) and the OMT Best Published Paper Award 2014 (with Joep Cornelissen & Saku Mantere).
Frank Mueller holds a Chair in Strategy & Organisation at the Newcastle University Business School, UK. His overall research focus is on understanding organisational change as a discursive, political and strategic project. During the last few years, his focus has been especially on analyzing discourse and language in management and public inquiry settings.