Sub-theme 53: Discourse, Organizations and Society: The Constitutive and Performative Role of Language
Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Aalto University School of Business, Finland
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).
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 &
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.
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.
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),
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.