Sub-theme 48: The Emergence of Categories, Identities, Fields and Organizational Forms

Mark T. Kennedy
Imperial College London Business School, UK
Joep P. Cornelissen
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Peer C. Fiss
University of Southern California, USA

Call for Papers

Our sub-theme aims to extend organisational research that examines how categories and identities maintain the boundaries of industries and markets and protect the integrity of organisational fields, forms and practices. To do so, we invite research that explores the emergence of such structures. By exploring the origins of categories and identities, we envision emergence studies as a complement to existing theory by shifting our attention towards fit with a recognized category as a dependent rather than independent variable.



In the growing literature that links various aspects of organisational and market behavior to the effects of categories that define product markets and organisational forms, identities, practices and strategies, studies examine not only (a) the homogenizing effects of categories and their effects on the diffusion of innovations, but also more recently, (b) how the emergence of these phenomena relates to awareness and growing understanding of the meaning of new categories and identities and (c) how competing material interests shape the emergence process and the resulting organisational landscape.


Themes and research questions

We invite studies of emergence, or the constitution of an apparently new phenomenon, writ broadly. Whilst the emergence theme naturally suggests studies of categories and identities, we also invite studies that engage emergence through related constructs such as frames, routines, capabilities, logics and scripts.

With the aim of exploring what is unifying yet distinctive about the notion of emergence, we particularly invite work that addresses questions such as the following:

  • Legitimacy or illegitimacy. Since not all that emerges becomes legitimate, when is it unlikely that reification of a new entity will also lead to institutionalisation? And what may be the reasons for this?
  • History. How and to what extent do new categories reflect extant categories? What is the role of evaluation such as cultural resonance, perceived utility, and features shared with extant categories?
  • Logics. What roles do categorisation and categories play in the reproduction or change of institutional logics and related standards of worth?
  • Influencers. How do audiences, producers and other gatekeepers affect emergence? What is the influence of, for example, activists, regulators, clients, suppliers, legislators, or lobbyists (Rao et al., 2005)? Why and how do professions, the media or critics support emergence (Cornelissen, forthcoming; Lounsbury & Rao, 2004)?
  • Network dynamics. How does emergence relate to the dynamics of networks based on (a) connections made in public discourse (Kennedy, 2008) or (b) relations among different kinds of organizations (Powell et al., 2005)?
  • Agency and structure. To what extent is emergence shaped by structure versus deliberate strategic action, or some combination (Dorado, 2005; Maguire et al., 2004)? How does this vary by situation?
  • Discourse and rhetoric. What role do framing, discourse and rhetoric play in emergence of new identities or categories (Green, 2004; Suddaby & Greenwood, 2005)?
  • Cognition. Are there established accounts of individual and social cognition that shed light on meaning construction processes for emergence (Kennedy & Fiss, 2009)?
  • Ideology. How do conflicting ideologies or cultural differences affect whether and how categories travel across product markets or geographical spaces? How are categories translated across communities without losing their meaning (Bowker & Star, 1999)?



Bowker, Geoffrey C. & Susan Leigh Star (1999): Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Cornelissen, Joep P. (forthcoming): 'Sensemaking under pressure: the influence of professional roles and social accountability on the creation of sense.' Organization Science.
Dorado, Silvia (2005): 'Institutional entrepreneurship, partaking, and convening.' Organization Studies, 26 (3), 385–414.
Green, Sandy (2004): 'A rhetorical theory of diffusion.' Academy of Management Review, 29 (4), 653–669.
Kennedy, Mark Thomas (2008): 'Getting counted: markets, media, and reality.' American Sociological Review, 73, 270–295.
Kennedy, Mark Thomas & Peer C. Fiss (2009): 'Institutionalization, framing, and diffusion: the logic of TQM adoption and implementation decisions among U.S. hospitals.' Academy of Management Journal, 52, 897–918.
Lounsbury, Michael & Hayagreeva Rao (2004): 'Sources of durability and change in market classifications: a study of the reconstitution of product categories in the American mutual fund industry, 1944–1985.' Social Forces, 82 (3), 969–999.
Maguire, Steve, Cynthia Hardy & Thomas B. Lawrence (2004): 'Institutional entrepreneurship in emerging fields: HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy in Canada.' Academy of Management Journal, 47 (5), 657–679.
Powell, Walter W., Douglas R. White, Kenneth W. Koput & Jason Owen-Smith (2005): 'Network dynamics and field evolution: the growth of interorganizational collaboration in the life sciences.' American Journal of Sociology, 110 (4), 1132–1205.
Rao, Hayagreeva, Philippe Monin & Rodolphe Durand (2005): 'Border crossing: bricolage and the erosion of categorical Boundaries in French gastronomy.' American Sociological Review, 70 (6), 968–992.
Suddaby, Roy & Royston Greenwood (2005): 'Rhetorical strategies of legitimacy.' Administrative Science Quarterly, 50 (1), 35–67.


Mark T. Kennedy is Assistant Professor at the Imperial College London Business School. He received his PhD from Northwestern University.
Joep P. Cornelissen is Professor of Communication and Organisation at VU University Amsterdam. He is interested in questions of creativity, innovation, communication and change in entrepreneurial and innovation contexts. His current research looks at the way in which enterpreneurs imagine new opportunities for ventures and markets and what personal, social and institutional conditions shape this imagination process. The methods that he uses in his research are mostly qualitative, ranging from visual enthography to discourse and metaphor analysis.
Peer C. Fiss is the McAllister Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California. He is broadly interested in how meaning structures shape organizational actions and has studied this in the context of how practices diffuse, how they change, and how accounts framing and justifying practices are constructed. In addition, he has worked on configurational theory using set-theoretic methods such as fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA).