Sub-theme 26: Emotions and (the Limits of) Institutional Control

Jaco Lok
University of New South Wales, Australia
Maxim Voronov
Brock University, Canada
Hugh Willmott
Cardiff University, UK

Call for Papers

A focus on the relations between emotion and institutions has the potential to fundamentally challenge our understanding of institutional processes by considering the "actors” that have recently taken up a central position in organizational institutionalism as embodied, emotional human beings, rather than mere cognitive misers (Hallett, 2010; Willmott, 2011). We think that this is an exciting and welcome development, as evidenced by the dynamic sub-theme on institutions and emotions during the 2012 EGOS Colloquium in Helsinki.

Recent work has framed emotion as an important input to, and part of, institutional work (e.g. Creed et al., 2010; Voronov & Vince, 2012). However, this agentic focus can obscure how emotions themselves are institutionally conditioned. We think a more focused discussion on the complicity of emotions in processes of institutional control and contestation is therefore needed in order to advance institutional analyses that neither trivialize nor overstate human agency. We thus seek to acknowledge that emotions are intrinsically tied to the operation of systemic power and its limits (Knights & Willmott, 1989; Lawrence, 2008).

The sub-theme aims is to encourage the exploration of the relations between emotions, institutional control, and its limits. It is intended to facilitate discussions within organizational institutionalism in a way that engages researchers in critical management studies and the sociology of emotions. It is anticipated that an attentiveness to emotions will illuminate questions of central interest to each of these fields and will stimulate new research questions.

We welcome contributions on the following questions:

  • How does power incorporate emotions in establishing forms of domination, and what are the limits of such power?
  • What is the emotional imprint of coercive and normative forces in institutional fields?
  • How and when do efforts to control human emotions backfire, and with what consequences?
  • What role do emotions play in erasing or obscuring institutional contradictions and how is this dispelled?
  • Is legitimacy equivalent to the induction of desirability around a practice? Can a practice be repulsive to a generalized audience and remain legitimate? Can a practice be exalted but considered illegitimate?
  • How does attending to emotions enable us to connect institutions to the human body?
  • How do institutions enable and constrain the production of embodied visceral responses to various phenomena?
  • Methodologically, how can researchers study the inter-subjective and socially embedded nature of emotions?

These questions are not exhaustive of possible contributions. We welcome empirical and theoretical papers which draw upon organizational institutionalism, critical management studies, and the sociology of emotions, including kindred approaches such as symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, social/cultural/political psychology, cultural and social history, psychoanalytic theory, identity theories, social movement theory, relational sociology, and sensemaking.



Creed, W.E. Douglas, Rich DeJordy & Jaco Lok (2010): 'Being the Change: Resolving Institutional Contradiction through Identity Work.' Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), pp. 1336–1364.
Hallett, Tim (2010): 'The Myth Incarnate: Recoupling Processes, Turmoil, and Inhabited Institutions in an Urban Elementary School.' American Sociological Review, 75 (1), pp. 52–74.
Knights, David & Hugh Willmott (1989): 'Power and Subjectivity at Work: From Degradation to Subjugation in Social Relations.' Sociology, 23 (4), pp. 535–558.
Lawrence, Thomas B. (2008): 'Power, Institutions and Organizations.' In: Royston Greenwood, Christine Oliver, Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson & Roy Suddaby (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 170–197.
Voronov, Maxim & Russ Vince (2012): 'Integrating Emotions into the Analysis of Institutional Work.' The Academy of Management Review, 37 (1), pp. 58–81.
Willmott, Hugh (2011): '"Institutional Work" for What? Problems and Prospects of Institutional Theory.' Journal of Management Inquiry, 20 (1), pp. 67–72.


Jaco Lok is Senior Lecturer at the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales. His research focuses on the development of the microfoundations of institutional theory, with a particular focus on identity, discourse, and power. Since obtaining his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2008 he has published three papers in the 'Academy of Management Journal' relating to the microfoundations of organizational institutionalism.
Maxim Voronov is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Goodman School of Business, Brock University, Canada. His research interests include institutional work, emotions and power. His publications have appeared in 'Academy of Management Review', 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Human Relations' and 'Organization', among others.
Hugh Willmott is Research Professor in Organisational Studies at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University; UK. He is a renowned scholar in the field of Critical Management Studies with a strong interest in the application of social theory, especially poststructuralist thinking, to the field of management and business. His recent books include "Critical Management Studies: A Reader" (Oxford University Press) and "Introducing Organization Behaviour and Management" (Cengage) and he has published numerous papers in journals like 'Administrative Science Quarterly', 'Academy of Management Review', 'Journal of Management Studies' and 'Organization'.