Sub-theme 29:

Untold Stories of the Field and Beyond

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Paul Donnelly, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland

Yiannis Gabriel, University of Bath, UK

Banu ?–zkazanÁ-Pan, University of Massachusetts, Boston, USA

Call for Papers

All too often, the organizational stories we tell and read as researchers are rather neatly ordered renderings of what we encounter both in the field and in our analyses, and make sense of through our favored theoretical lenses. But, how do these stories come to be told the way they are? What ordering happens in their telling? How do we make sense of the messiness in the telling? How do we go from mess to order?

In practice, we know that telling our organizational stories is not without its fair share of mess; indeed, we suggest that few are those amongst us who do not have to engage with mess. While we may allude to some of the mess in our writing, much of it is left out, hidden from view. Why? Is the mess that is entailed in the assembling, disassembling and reassembling that is part and parcel of crafting our ordered stories not worth our attention? It is as if the messiness of our craft is like the elephant in the room; we know it exists, but we don't wish to acknowledge it in our writing.

With both the above and the general theme as context, it is fitting that we should focus on reassembling organizational storytelling. Thus, we invite contributions that reflect one or more of the following or similar issues, which are by no means exhaustive:

  • How do we account for our field stories? For the stories we tell? How do we decide which stories to tell? What stories are left untold? And why?
  • How do we craft our stories in practice?
  • How do we respond when we confront messy stories, messy situations and messy findings?
  • How are research programs constructed in practice to engage with messiness and disorder? How are they maintained, challenged, stabilized?
  • How is access to the field negotiated in practice? What happens when access isn't possible? What happens when access initially granted is subsequently renegotiated or denied?
  • How are the challenges and limitations of research methods and conventions dealt with at the coalface? What new methods emerge? What tweaking or novel uses of existing methods happens and why?
  • What other problems arise in the course of doing research and how are they addressed?
  • How does language help/hinder us in constructing our stories? How do we overcome the limitations of language, particularly where we are interested in process organization stories?
  • How do we manage the politics of research? How does power affect the stories we tell and those that are silenced?
  • How do/can we account for our 'failures' in the field? How do/can we deal with our failures? Is it a matter of dealing with shifting assemblies? How do/can we (re)construct our research processes?
  • What do/can we learn from our tales of the field?

We anticipate that this sub-theme will be of particular interest to recently minted PhDs, whose stories from the field will be fresh in their minds. The sub-theme will also be of interest to those engaging in empirical work in general, who also reflect on the assembling of their stories of the organizational.


Paul Donnelly?is a Lecturer of organization studies and international business at the College of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. He received his PhD in organization studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research interests revolve around dynamic ways of understanding the organizational and institutional and he has an affinity with more critical perspectives of the organizational. He has recently co-edited and contributed to "Approaches to Qualitative Research: Theory and Its Application" (Oak Tree Press, 2009) and "Irish Business & Society: Governing, Participating and Transforming in the 21st Century" (Gill & Macmillan, 2010).

Yiannis Gabriel?is Deputy Dean of the School of Management and Chair in Organization Studies at the University of Bath, UK. He received his PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. He is well known for his work into organizational storytelling and narratives, leadership, management learning and the culture and politics of contemporary consumption. He has used stories as a way of studying numerous social and organizational phenomena and is co-founder and co-ordinator of the Organizational Storytelling seminar series (see: His current research includes work on the importance of an ethic of care in health and education, the dark side of certain organizations captured in the concept of miasma, the relation between image and narrative and the exploration of the ways in which clinicians defend themselves against work-related anxieties. He is the author of nine books and numerous articles. He has been editor of Management Learning and associate editor of Human Relations.

Banu ?–zkazanÁ-Pan?is Assistant Professor of management and international business at the College of Management, University of Massachusetts. She received her PhD in organization studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research interests cover the areas of management in a global context, social and economic development and entrepreneurship activities, theorizing management and organization through postcolonial theories. She has published in the Academy of Management Review and in the book "Approaches to Qualitative Research: Theory and Its Application" (Oak Tree Press).

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