Sub-theme 36: Societies and Organizations to the Test of Migration and Multiculturalism

Koen Van Laer
Hasselt University, Belgium
Laurence Romani
Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Minna Paunova
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Call for Papers

The period of Enlightenment is credited with the articulation, promulgation and celebration of ideals such as liberty, equality, and tolerance for diversity. These ideals have contributed to shape many societies as we know them today. However, by imagining itself around these values, the West has also claimed for itself a special place in the global order, and legitimized its relation to its ‘Others’, who have become implicitly or explicitly understood as ‘less enlightened’ (Said, 1978). What happens when we contrast the Enlightenment ideals to the reality of migration, multiculturalism, and organizational diversity? Continuing the engaging conversation around migration, ethnicity, and integration (EGOS Colloquia 2015 and 2017), this sub-theme invites scholars to consider where the values of the Enlightenment, as well as the negative construction of its ‘Other’, are found in todays’ societies and organizations.
In society: The West has witnessed the rise of political and societal movements whose approach to migration and multiculturalism seems to run counter to the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and tolerance. This involves not only the rise of right-wing, anti-immigration parties, but also of policies that promote division and marginalization rather than liberty and equality. For example, multiculturalism as a public policy instrument has been in decline, and there has been a rise of measures to prevent migration and increase civic integration, which can be seen as a form of paternalism and obligatory cultural assimilation (Joppke & Morawska, 2014; Kymlicka, 2010). Migrants and their children continue to face barriers to labor market integration, thereby preventing them from fully contributing to society (OECD, 2013). Still, the ideal of equality also continues to inspire societal and governmental efforts to improve the situation of migrants and other minority groups.
In organizations: Despite the Enlightenment promises of liberty, equality, and tolerance, organizations continue to contribute to reproducing societal and global inequalities based on race, ethnicity, religion, and/or nationality (Acker, 2006; Paunova, 2017; Van Laer & Janssens, 2011). Migrants and ethnic minorities continue to be discriminated in recruitment processes and, once employed, they continue to face interpersonal forms of discrimination, pressures to assimilate, and organizational policies that privilege historically dominant groups (Blommaert et al., 2013; Van Laer & Janssens, 2011). Meanwhile, organizational attempts to foster liberty, equality, and tolerance for diversity are sometimes nothing more than window-dressing or fail to achieve their desired goals (Zanoni et al., 2010).
Nonetheless, there are also notable cases of transformative change in organizations, where the ideals of equality and tolerance are actually put into practice. For example, the societal value of equality motivates organizational actions in favor of vulnerable groups (Romani et al., 2017). Some organizations have been able to devise and implement human resource management practices that help multicultural work groups and their constituent members overcome intolerance and inequality (Butler et al., 2018). Meanwhile, there are also signs of traditionally disadvantaged groups involved in enacting and promoting transformative change in their organizations (Paunova, 2017; Van Laer & Janssens, 2017).
This sub-theme welcomes scholars engaged in migration, diversity management, ethnicity, post-colonial and critical race studies to consider how their research informs us on current practices and trends in society and organizations, especially in view of the ideal of a free, tolerant, and rational model of a multicultural society, building on human rights and equality. We welcome all papers touching on migration (high and low-skilled, economic and humanitarian, etc.), ethnicity/race, as well as religion, nationality, and related identity markers. Papers may address, but are not limited to, global societal trends in migration, the labor market position of migrants and ethnic minorities, the topics of inclusion, exclusion, fairness, discrimination, diversity management, and (in)equality in society and organizations.
For example, across organizational and societal levels of analysis, papers may discuss:

  • What are the trends in multiculturalism and migrant inclusion in society and organizations?

  • What are the consequences of recent societal and political developments on equality, on the employment and career prospects of migrants, and on migrant entrepreneurship?

  • What is the impact of migration, migrant (un)employment and migrant entrepreneurship on host and origin economies?

  • How do individuals with a migration background experience and advance their careers, labor market opportunities and inclusion?

  • How is migrant status (as well as ethnicity, race, nationality, and religion) related to other bases of inequality such as gender, disability, and socioeconomic class?

  • How is ethnic inequality (re)produced or challenged in organizations?

  • What is the impact of organizational diversity management on ethnic (in)equality?

  • How do organizational inequality regimes relate to societal and global inequality?

  • How does migration transform identity practices?

  • What can the self-proclaimed ‘Enlightened West’ learn from its ‘Other’?

  • How can migrants and individuals with a migration background act as change agents to promote liberty, equality, and tolerance for diversity?

  • What can organization studies contribute to the multilevel and multidisciplinary study of migration?



  • Acker, J. (2006): “Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations.” Gender & Society, 20 (4), 441–464.
  • Blommaert, L., Coenders, M., & Van Tubergen, F. (2013): “Discrimination of Arabic-named applicants in the Netherlands: An internet-based field experiment examining different phases in online recruitment procedures.” Social Forces, 92 (3), 957–982.
  • Butler, C.L., Minbaeva, D., Mäkelä, K., Maloney, M.M., Nardon, L., Paunova, M., & Zimmermann, A. (2018): “Towards a strategic understanding of global teams and their HR implications: an expert dialogue.” International Journal of Human Resource Management, first published online on March 8, 2018,
  • Joppke, C., & Morawska, E. (2014): Toward Assimilation and Citizenship. Immigrants in Liberal Nation-States. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kymlicka, W. (2010): “The rise and fall of multiculturalism? New debates on inclusion and accommodation in diverse societies.” International Social Science Journal, 61, 97–112.
  • OECD (2013): The Fiscal Impact of Immigration in OECD Countries. International Migration Outlook. Paris: OECD.
  • Paunova, M. (2017): “Who gets to lead the multinational team? An updated status characteristics perspective.” Human Relations, 70 (7), 883–907.
  • Romani, L., Holck, L., Holgersson, C., & Muhr, S.L. (2017): “Diversity management and the Scandinavian model: Illustrations from Denmark and Sweden.” In: M. Özbilgin & J.F. Chanlat (eds.): Management and Diversity. Perspectives from National Context, Vol. 3. London: Emerald, 261–280.
  • Said, E.W. (1978): Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Van Laer, K., & Janssens, M. (2011): ”Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences with subtle discrimination in the workplace.” Human Relations, 64 (9), 1203–1227.
  • Van Laer, K. & Janssen, M. (2017): “Agency of ethnic minority employees: Struggles around identity, career and social change.” Organization, 24 (2), 198–217.
  • Zanoni, P., Janssens, M., Benschop, Y., & Nkomo, S. (2010): “Guest editorial: Unpacking diversity, grasping inequality: Rethinking difference through critical perspectives.” Organization, 17 (1), 9–29.

Koen Van Laer is an Assistant Professor at SEIN – Identity, Diversity & Inequality Research, Faculty of Business Economics, Hasselt University, Belgium. Drawing on critical perspectives, his work focuses on ethnicity, religion, disability, and sexual orientation at work, on the way workplace experiences and careers are connected to power inequalities, and on the way ‘difference’ is managed and constructed in organizations.
Laurence Romani is an Associate Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. Her work focuses on issues of representation and interaction with ‘the other’ in respectful and enriching ways through critical management, feminist, and post-colonial organization studies.
Minna Paunova is an Associate Professor of Cross-Cultural Management and Communication at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Her research has examined the dynamics of global and highly diverse work groups and their leadership; current interests concern multiculturalism, global inequality, and migrant integration at work.