Sub-theme 50: Organizing Subjects: Reflexivity, Responsibility and Transformation at Work [merged with sub-theme 29]


Call for Papers

Reflexivity has become 'a major methodological preoccupation' for scholars in the field of organization studies in recent years (Rhodes, 2009: 653; see also Weick, 1999; Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2000; Cunliffe, 2003). We would like to explore connections between reflexivity, ethics and work that considers subjects to be constituted by the knowledges that are available to them in their time and place (Foucault, 1983, 2005; Nandy, 1995, 2004; Hacking, 2004). In these terms, subjects can only understand themselves and make themselves understandable in terms of the categories and discourses that are dans le vrai of the world they inhabit.

Postcolonial critiques of modernity (Said 1978; Spivak 1999; Chakrabarty 2007; Jack & Westwood, 2009; Jack et al., 2011) make a compelling argument that the conditions of genuine transformation in organizational life depend on the production of new relations between the subjects and objects of knowledge. Reflexive practices are crucial in producing new subject-object relations, but what reflexivity means for subjects and objects of emergent knowledge is not well understood. Accordingly, we are interested in exploring how reflexive practices make interventions in the subject-object-knowledge dynamic in a variety of settings.

For example, organizational diversity research operates on subjects who are thought to exist (e.g., those protected under categories of anti-discrimination laws), but it could provide a space for imagining other subjects who do not yet exist (such as postcolonial subjects) (Ahonen & Greedharry, 2013). Reflection in the former case is dependent on existing knowledge about diversity and the categories that such knowledge naturalizes (Ahonen et al., 2013). In the latter case the possibilities for reflexivity are limited not by existing knowledge and its naturalized categories, but by the legibility and credibility of knowledges that are still emerging.

Similarly, international development work and projects produce certain kinds of subjects (e.g., developers and developees) which engender complex, hybrid and often problematic forms of reflexivity and subject positioning (Dar & Cooke, 2008). Such positioning opens up possibilities of reflexive dissent and contestation (Fforde, 2009, 2013). The current and widespread fascination with organizational spirituality offers another case in point. What is happening when organizational subjects turn to workplace spiritualities of various forms (Case & Gosling, 2010; Case, Höpfl & Letiche, 2012; Case, Simpson & French, 2012; Giacaolone & Jurkiewicz, 2004; Heelas, 2008) or non-modern knowledge (Case & Gosling, 2007) in search of other kinds of reflexive practices?

As Rhodes (2009: 667) argues, 'the cultivation of poiesis', the fostering of questioning, of possibilities and of openness in the production of organizational knowledge, may well be the means with which to combat the finitude of established knowledges and the subjects they make possible, but we also need to examine, or imagine, the subjects-in-progress that the emerging knowledges make possible. What kinds of reflexive practices are sought and recovered, and what kinds of ‘working’ subjects are they meant to produce?

For this sub-theme we invite papers addressing, but not limited to, such themes as:

  • Difference and the possibility of (new) organizational subjects
  • Disreputable knowledges and organizing subjects
  • Postcolonial transformations
  • Diversity discourses, reflexivity and subject formation
  • Workplace spiritualities and reflexivity
  • Histories of subjects at and in work
  • Reflexivity and organizational transformation
  • Ethics and practices of making (up) organizational subjects

We encourage creative interpretations of this call for short papers. Proposals for individual papers and panels, as well as innovative forms of presentation, will all be considered




  • Ahonen, P., & Greedharry, M. (2013): What's the difference? Postcolonial interventions in diversity and its management. Paper presented at the 15th Asia-Pacific Researchers in Organisation Studies Conference, Tokyo, 15–17 February 2013.
  • Ahonen, P., Tienari, J., Meriläinen, S., & Pullen, A. (2014): "Hidden contexts and invisible power relations: A Foucauldian reading of diversity management." Human Relations, 67 (3), 263–286.
  • Alvesson, M., & Skoldberg, K. (2000): Reflexive Methodology: New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Case, P., & Gosling, J. (2007): "Wisdom of the moment: Premodern perspectives on organizational action." Social Epistemology, 21 (2), 87–111.
  • Case, P., & Gosling, J. (2010): "The spiritual organization: Critical reflections on the instrumentality of workplace spirituality discourse." Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion, 7 (4), 257–282.
  • Case, P., Höpfl, H.. & Letiche, H. (eds.) (2012): Belief and Organization. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Case, P., Simpson, P., & French, R. (2012): "From theoria to theory: Leadership without contemplation." Organization, 19 (3), 345–361.
  • Chakrabarty, D. (2007): Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Cunliffe, A. (2003): "Reflexive inquiry in organizational research: Questions and possibilities." Human Relations, 56 (8), 983–1003.
  • Dar, S., & Cooke, B. (2008): The New Development Management: Critiquing the Dual Modernization. London: Zed Books.
  • Fforde, A. (2009): Coping with Facts: A Skeptic's Guide to the Problem of Development. Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press.
  • Fforde, A. (2013): Understanding Development Economics: Its Challenge to Development Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Foucault, M. (1983): "The subject and power." In: H.L. Dreyfus & P. Rabinow (eds.): Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 208–228.
  • Foucault, M. (2005): The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the Collège de France 1981–1982. Basingstoke: Picador.
  • Hacking, I. (2004): Historical Ontology. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Heelas, P. (2008): Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism. Blackwell: Oxford.
  • Jack, G., & Westwood, R. (2009): International and Cross-Cultural Management Studies: A Postcolonial Reading. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Jack, G., Westwood, R., Srinivas, N., & Sardar, Z. (2011): "Deepening, broadening and re-asserting a postcolonial interrogative space in organization studies." Organization, 18 (3), 275–302.
  • Nandy, A. (1995): The Savage Freud: And Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves. Delhi: Oxford University Press India.
  • Nandy, A. (2004): Alternative Sciences: Creativity and Authenticity in Two Indian Scientists. Delhi: Oxford University Press India.
  • Rhodes, C. (2009): "After reflexivity: Ethics, freedom and the writing of organization studies." Organization Studies, 30 (6), 653–672.
  • Said, E. (1978): Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
  • Spivak, G. (1999): A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Weick, K. (1999): "Theory construction as disciplined reflexivity: Tradeoffs in the 1990s." Academy of Management Review, 24 (4), 797–806.