Sub-theme 04: (SWG) Diversity, Embodiment and Affect

Marieke van den Brink
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Alison Pullen
Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
Marianna Fotaki
Warwick University, UK

Call for Papers

The management of diversity in organizations brings into focus the forms of discrimination that occur in relation to different types of sexed, shaped, racialised, sexualised and abled bodies (Acker, 2006; Holvino, 2010). Despite this, organization studies literature has generally neglected various forms of corporeal differentiation assuming that the worker is a disembodied subject with a few exceptions (e.g. Fotaki, 2013; Fotaki et al., 2014). Moreover, while assumedly a disembodied subject in organization theory, the idea of subjectivity comes in the form of an unspoken masculine norm and as such excludes and marginalizes those individuals who cannot achieve the qualities of this idealised worker (Acker, 1990). However, qualities attributed to bodies are not to be taken for granted given that they are socially organized, culturally dependent and political. Power operates on and through bodies and the meanings attached to bodies are not only products of social relations but are organized, regulated and normalized in ways that reinforce dominant social ordering.

In this sub-theme we seek to challenge unspoken norms and patterns of discrimination of organizational bodies by bringing together advancements from critical diversity studies and organization studies which problematize diversity and its management by focusing on the differentiations between racialized, aged, gendered, sexed bodies. The sub-theme is intended to advance research that specifically addresses the body as it relates to patterns of discrimination and privilege in organizations. Specifically, we aim to bring in and enable debates about an emancipatory politics that resists the homogenizing and oppressive dimensions of organizational governance, structure, culture, and policies denying bodily difference. In other words, we argue for reading bodies as sites of affects and power relations. Such an approach offers the possibility of an active rather than responsive or docile approach to the management of diversity. This also represents a shift from the organizational management of diverse bodies to recognizing the diversity of embodied lives and experiences which challenge organizational norms which violate, oppress and discriminate. This affective dimension of bodies is important, and in recent times has attracted increasing attention in social theory leading to claims of an 'affective turn' (Clough, 2007). Such turn was presaged both by the focus on the body in feminist theory and the concern for emotions explored in queer theory. The turn to affect is a move to understand existence and humanity through the living, feeling, material and sensate body (Kenny et al., 2011; Pullen & Rhodes, 2015; cf. CfP for the special issue for Organization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society at:

We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions that critically question the exercise of power in organizations by focussing on bodies at work and relations between them, in social and organizational contexts. We invite contributions that challenge embodiment in terms of the uptake and institutionalization of diversity discourse in organizations. Last but not least, we would wish to attract contributions that recognize the affectual relations between bodies as a means to acknowledge bodies as powerful, sensual and corporeal. These are just some of the questions that we hope to be discussing in this sub-theme:

  • What is the future of diversity studies when we think of the dis/embodied nature of diversity and its management?
  • When bodies are seen as central sites of power and affect what can be learned?
  • What changes in practice can be enabled by reading the relations between bodies are corporeal – as enacting mind and body, in situ?
  • How can affectual bodies resist to bring about change?




  • Acker, J. (1990): "Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations." Gender and Society, 4 (2), 139–158.
  • Acker, J. (2006): "Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations." Gender & Society, 20 (4), 441–464.
  • Clough, P.T. (2007): "Introduction." In: P.T. Cough with J. Halley (eds.): The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 1–33.
  • Fotaki, M. (2013): "No woman is like a man (in academia): The masculine symbolic order and the unwanted female body." Organization Studies, 34 (9), 1251–1275.
  • Fotaki, M., Metcalfe, B.D., & Harding, N. (2014): "Writing materiality into management and organization studies through and with Luce Irigaray." Human Relations, 67 (10), 1239–1263.
  • Holvino, E. (2010): "Intersections: The simultaneity of race, gender and class in organization studies." Gender, Work & Organizations, 17 (3), 248–277.
  • Kenny, K., Muhr, S., & Olaison, L. (2011): "The effect of affect: desire and politics in modern organizations." Ephemera, 11 (3), 235–242.
  • Pullen, A., & Rhodes, C. (2015): "Is becoming-woman possible in organizations?" In: A. Pullen & C. Rhodes (eds.): The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations. London: Routledge, pp. 355–367.


Marieke van den Brink is Associate Professor at the Institute for Management Research at the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Her main research interests are gender and diversity in organizations, organizational learning and processes of power and resistance. She is currently working on a large scale case study research on diversity, organizational learning and change, and a comparative research on gender and precarious workers in European universities. In March 2015, she was elected member of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her work has been published in, among others, 'Journal of Management Studies', 'Organization Studies', 'Organization', 'Human Relations', and 'Gender, Work & Organization'.
Alison Pullen is Professor of Management and Organization Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Her primary research interests concern the dynamics of identity and gender as they play out in organizational settings. Alison's current writing also concerns the critical appraisal of feminism in organization and the development of feminist research methodologies. She is a regular contributor to leading journals in the field of management and organization studies. Her latest book is a co-edited collection: "The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations".
Marianna Fotaki is Professor of Business Ethics at Warwick Business School, UK, and holds a visiting professorship at the University of Manchester. She has published over 40 papers on the marketization of public services, health inequalities, gender and otherness in organizations and business in society in leading international journals. Her recent books include "The Psychosocial and Organization Studies" (Palgrave, 2014), co-edited with Kate Kenny, "Gender and the Organization" (with Nancy Harding; Routledge), and Global Challenges to Business in Society" (with Kate Kenny and Juliane Reinecke; SAGE). Marianna co-directs pro bono an online think tank Centre for Health and the Public Interest and is also a Network Fellow at Edmond J. Safra Centre for Ethics, Harvard University in 2014–15 where she completes a project on institutional corruption in different cultural and organizational settings.