36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Politics of difference seems to be on the rise in today’s world: ethnic identities are essentialised (e.g. Eriksen, 2011),
minority individuals are denied belonging based on presumed cultural ‘otherness’ (e.g. Weichselbaumer, 2016), and a ‘modern
West’ is discursively constructed as a homogeneous cultural unit that needs to defend itself against presumably ‘less developed’
cultural ‘others’ (e.g. Rahman, 2017). Often, organizations and societies operate under a ‘crisis frame’ which leads them
to position themselves in frameworks of difference.
However, difference is not an objective reality (most people routinely cross multiple spatial, discursive and imaginative borders in their daily organizational lives), but a highly politicized process by which individuals, groups, organizations and societies position themselves against others, and that has to be interrogated as such. To break up dominant demarcation lines and to discover the multi-facetted realities of organizing is all the more relevant in times of perceived crises – geo-political, cultural, humanitarian, identity-related et cetera – and in times of rising xenophobia, anti-intellectualism and authoritarianism in different parts of the world.
This sub-theme contributes to providing organizational answers to present challenges (migration, refugee movements, political destabilization in parts of the world, etc., cumulating in increased inner- and outer-organizational complexity and unpredictability). It is of interest to engaged scholars of organizations and management who wish to deconstruct the dichotomist demarcation lines erected by present politics of difference and to identify unexpected connections.
We invite empirical and conceptual studies that investigate how, why, by whom and what for difference is constructed, affirmed, resisted, politicized and so on, and that suggest alternatives across time (past, present, future) and/or across space (e.g. societies, nations, cultures, organizations, professions, virtual worlds, contexts, etc.). They should employ critical perspectives help us to imagine more diverse, inclusive and balanced organizational futures of how we construct and ‘deal with’ difference. We propose three angles – power-sensitive, intersectional and historically-aware – for doing so.
Generally, contributions should acknowledge the power-implications of politics of difference. For example, on micro-level, it might be that conflict in a global team or in a multinational organization is explained with culture, but is actually rooted in unequal structures. On meso-level certain organizational ideas, e.g. of the ideal employee or of ‘good leadership’, might favour a certain ‘type’ of individual over others who are then constructed as negatively different. Macro-level discursive requirements for belonging, e.g. the implicit assumption of national identity being linked to a certain ethnicity, might frame organizational sense-making (e.g. Eriksen, 2011).
Contributions might also explore intersections, e.g. of diversity markers, of identity and culture, of history and organization et cetera, as related to our aim of challenging the ‘normalities’ of difference. For instance, it might be that an individual is advantaged because of a certain identity marker, but disadvantaged due to another. It might also be that a person’s ethnicity is perceived favourably in one culture or organization, but negatively in another. It might furthermore be that religiousness today is viewed differently than in the past, or that certain symbols such as the Muslim veil have changed meaning across time and contexts (e.g. Golnaraghi & Dye, 2016; Primecz et al., 2016; Weichselbaumer, 2016).
When exploring history, contributions should not report historical developments or cultural/ethnic/organizational/and so on differences as facts, but rather investigate the constructions of difference across time. They should reflect upon history critically, for instance, by means of genealogy (e.g. Prasad, 2009, based on Foucault, 1977), problematization (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011), or by tracing actor networks over time (Durepos & Mills, 2012).
Contributions might also reflect critically upon major diversity markers (e.g. religion/worldview, race/ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, class). For it could be that these labels do not facilitate inclusion but rather, by putting difference into words, boxes, labels contribute to the prevalent discourses of difference. So, how can we be sure that critical scholarly engagement will change the politics of difference to the better?
In summary, contributions might be related to (but are not limited to) on one or a combination of the following themes:
Historical investigations of present constructions of difference; ruptures in the histories of ‘difference’ and alternative histories
Identifications across space (e.g. societies, nations, cultures, organizations, professions, virtual worlds, flows of meaning, contexts, etc.) and time, and intersectionality of identity, across time, and within and/or across organizational and/or societal contexts
Mechanisms that construct, affirm, resist, change, institutionalize, and so on, difference (e.g. hegemony, privilege, discourse, language, framing, labelling, habitus, practice, bodies, performance, symbolic interactions, actor networks, cultural explanations).
Lenses from which to investigate the politics of difference (e.g. discourse analysis, phenomenology, embodiment, performativity, postcolonial and subaltern studies, postmodernism, intersectionality, historiography, standpoint theory, gender studies)
Reflexive considerations of a critical scholarly engagement with difference
Conceptual contributions to studying the aforementioned phenomena
Please see also the Call for Papers on “The politics of difference: Critical investigations across time and space” for a Special Issue (Vol. 29, Issue 2, 2023) of Culture and Organization: