Sub-theme 23: Diversity Contested: Struggles for Recognition and Redistribution in and around Organizations

Patrizia Zanoni
Hasselt University, Belgium, & Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Inge L. Bleijenbergh
Radboud University, The Netherlands
Tair Karazi-Presler
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Call for Papers

When employers in the US introduced the business notion of diversity in the late 1980s (Johnston & Packer, 2000), it marked something unprecedented in the history of capitalism: it explicitly named workers’ social identities as a repository of economic value. While the workforce had never been demographically homogeneous, only with diversity heterogeneous social identities were explicitly recognized as key to meet the firm’s goal to create value. Conversely, an implicit ground was laid for diverse workers’ claims of redistribution of such value. Over 30 years later, through this sub-theme, we would like to address the following question: What has become today of diversity’s original promise of recognition and redistribution?
This sub-theme has theoretical, empirical and political relevance in the light of the multiplication and intensification of conflict in contemporary societies, triggered by rising economic inequality and precarization of the livelihood of many (Bell et al., 2018; Butler, 2006; Standing, 2011). Such conflicts are fundamentally traversed by diversity ‘categories’, or ‘markers of difference’ such as class background, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, ‘race’, ethnicity, religion, language, nationality, rural/urban background, etc. For instance, claims for recognition and redistribution are increasingly couched in populist, conservative, nationalistic, and xenophobic ideologies (e.g., Burgoon et al., 2019) as opposed to a classed vocabulary of dispossession. Struggles concerning the environment are articulated in the public arena along gender and generational lines, as well as along the city/rural areas divide, and the North and the global South.
This sub-theme offers a forum to reconnect diversity in and around work and organizations to these broader struggles for recognition and redistribution in and across contemporary societies as well as their mutual articulation (Fraser & Honneth, 2003). Diversity refers to the social production and political mobilization of social categories, to organize inequality, dispossessing some and entitling others. At the same time, the outcome of a social process, social identities are never defined once and for all. The original promise of recognition and redistribution can never be completely and definitively erased, making the categories of difference on which the social order rests unstable, the locus of potential contestation and antagonism (Butler, 1990; Laclau & Mouffe, 1985).
We welcome theoretical and theoretically-informed empirical articles examining (the role of diversity in) struggles of recognition and redistribution in, around and across contemporary organizations and organizing. Submissions might address the following questions and more:

  • What categories of difference are produced and mobilized to dispossess and to entitle and how exactly? How are these categories conversely re-appropriated to reclaim recognition or redistribution?

  • How do recognition struggles of recent years, such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, affect the negotiation of social norms in organizations today?

  • Which role do social media play in struggles of recognition and redistribution along diversity lines?

  • How do firms challenge traditional social categories? With which effects on the framework of power in the broader institutional and discursive context in which they are embedded?

  • What are the effects of woke capitalism for struggles of recognition and redistribution?

  • How do categories imposed by the law interact with organizational categories to shape the dynamics of entitlement and dispossession? How are they appropriated to advance claims of recognition and redistribution?

  • How do political subjectivities in alternative organizational contexts (e.g. grassroots organizations, social movements, trade unions, lobby groups, cooperatives, etc.) contribute to a contemporary theory of diversity in organizations?

  • What can we learn from embodied, affective practices of everyday inclusion in semi-curated public places, like neighbourhoods, libraries, playgrounds, squats, etc.?

  • Through which discursive and material practices are diverse identities articulated in order to sustain projects of solidarity? Which established and novel social actors are today challenging existing diversity categories to struggle for recognition and/or redistribution?



  • Bell, M.P., Leopold, J., Berry, D., & Hall, A.V. (2018): “Diversity, discrimination, and persistent inequality: Hope for the future through the solidarity economy movement.” Journal of Social Issues, 74 (2), 224–243.
  • Burgoon, B., van Noort, S., Rooduijn, M., & Underhill, G. (2019): “Positional deprivation and support for radical right and radical left parties.” Economic Policy, 34 (97), 49–93.
  • Butler, J. (1990): Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.
  • Butler, J. (2006): Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso Books.
  • Fraser, N., & Honneth, A. (2003): Redistribution or Recognition: A Political-philosophical Exchange. London: Verso.
  • Johnston, W.B., & Packer, A.E. (1987): Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Laclau, E., & Mouffe, C. (1985): Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.
  • Standing, G. (2011): The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury.
Patrizia Zanoni is Full Professor at the Faculty of Business Economics at Hasselt University, Belgium, leading the research centre SEIN – Identity, Diversity & Inequality Research, and holding a Chair in Organization Studies at the School of Governance of Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Drawing on critical theories such as discourse analysis and Marxist theory, Patrizia investigates the dynamics of power, control and resistance in changing organizations with special attention to social identities such as gender, ethnicity, disability and diversity. She is associate editor of ‘Organization ‘and member of the editorial boards of the ‘British Journal of Management’ and ‘Research in the Sociology of Work.'
Inge L. Bleijenbergh is Associate Professor at the Institute for Management Research at Radboud University, The Netherlands. Using a critical research perspective, she examines inequality in organizations, resistance against organization change, gender and diversity and the validity and usefulness of action research. Inge uses participatory modeling to involve decision makers in analyzing and addressing complex problems. She is associate editor of ‘Gender, Work and Organization’ and member of the editorial boards of ‘Qualitative Research in Organizations’ and ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’.
Tair Karazi-Presler recently earned her PhD degree at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She investigates the phenomenology of power among women in different organizational environments in Israel (military and public administration). Through a comparative study of organizational practices and cultural structures, Tair examines how varied configurations of patriarchy shape the sense of value and worth of women in power positions from different social backgrounds.