Sub-theme 57: Organizing Identities: Inclusivity, Exclusivity, Mis-clusivity

Christine Coupland
Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Susan Ainsworth
University of Melbourne, Australia
Andrew D. Brown
University of Bath, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The general theme of the 37th EGOS Colloquium asks that we take a perspective on organizing, seeing and studying the bright and the dark sides of inclusivity that inspires our scholarship to make wider society and our own research community a more liveable place.
In this sub-theme we explore and develop understanding of these issues from an identities standpoint. A considerable stream of research has evolved that analyzes how identities in and around organizations are key to understanding institutional processes and outcomes (Alvesson et al., 2008; Brown, 2015, 2020; Coupland & Brown, 2012) especially in relation to issues of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, inclusivity and livability (Ainsworth, 2002, 2008; Butler, 2002; Riach, 2014).
A ‘mythical’ alliance between freedom, choice and identity (Gabriel, 2015) engenders a permanent sense of instability, insecurity and precarity, lived within organised practices that renders some individuals visible and desirable and others not, and therefore rendered invisible. This selective, though perhaps not concious, blindness of some individuals we are refering to as organizational mis-clusivity.
The concept ‘clusivity’ refers to the phenomenon of the inclusive and exclusive distinction as marked in discourse, recently extended to include interdisciplinary approaches to better understand belongingness and association (Wieczorek, 2013). We are drawing upon and developing these ideas in order to consider how different forms of social inequality, domination and subordination are enacted through individual identity work and the construction of different ‘kinds of people’ (see Hacking, 2007), which includes; spatial, temporal, material, discursive, dramaturgical, sensory and emotional practices in and around organizations.
Representations of inclusivity and exclusivity typically mobilise positive and negative self/other characterisations. Although the concept of ‘clusivity’ has been used formerly to consider political discourse it is timely, we propose, to consider how legitimation, de-legitimation, persuasion and manipulation provide proximity and distance between identities. We argue that inclusion and exclusion is dynamic and unfolding, with relevance for our everyday, mundane, activities and is of key interest to processually-oriented organizational scholars.
In keeping with the conference theme, we seek papers also on how we, as scholars, mirror in our academic activities the tendency to be selectively inclusive and exclusive, mis-clusive, blind to others and to, in turn, be invisible ourselves in ways that we do not always appreciate. Working from the premise that organizational boundaries, processes and practices can enable and constrain the identities available to individuals within organizations (Grey, 1994; Thomas & Davies, 2005; Ybema et al., 2009) we as scholars may also perpetuate ‘clusivity’.
We invite papers that (inter alia) explore:

  • Identity work and outcomes. In what ways are identity strategies used to associate and dis-associate with others? What are the consequences of this for individuals, organisations and society? What are the implications of these practices for individual and collective well-being?

  • Embodiment, materiality and identity. Acknowledging the embodied and sensory in identity research is an important perspective which offers opportunities to explore how inclusion and exclusion is performed. How do bodies demonstrate the material limits of identity work?

  • Identity regulation and change. Processes of inclusion and exclusion are dynamic. How do organizations seek to manage employee identities in terms of their inclusivity? How do employees manage their identities to conform to organizational expectations? How is the movement from inclusion to exclusion and (vice versa) experienced by individuals?

  • Identity legitimation. How do those who regard themselves as outsiders learn to ‘be’ in organizations? What legitimation strategies can be drawn upon to provide proximity (or distance) from others? What costs and risks does inclusion bring?

  • Identity and recognition. What are the consequences of conforming to organizational norms in order to be recognized as ‘good’ workers, and what is the impact on those who cannot, or choose not to, conform? How are people’s identities sustainably (or not) negotiated, confirmed and contested in interactions with others and what are the implications of these processes for organizations? Are there benefits to being ‘invisible’ or ‘misrecognised’?

  • Identity and reflexivity. What is the role of reflexivity in identity work? Who does the very concept of ‘identity’ exclude and what are the implications of this for OS scholarship?


  • Ainsworth, S. (2002): “The feminine advantage: A discursive analysis of the invisibility of older women workers.” Gender Work and Organization, 9 (5), 579–601.
  • Ainsworth, S., & Hardy, C. (2008): “The enterprising self: An unsuitable job for an older worker.” Organization, 15 (3), 389–406.
  • Alvesson, M., Ashcraft, K.K., & Thomas, R. (2008): “Identity matters: Reflections on the construction of identity scholarship in organization studies.” Organization, 15 (1), 5–28.
  • Brown, A.D. (2015): “Identities and identity work in organizations.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 17 (1), 20–40.
  • Brown, A.D. (ed.) (2020): The Oxford Handbook of Identities in Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Butler, J. (2002): Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.
  • Coupland, C., & Brown, A.D. (2012): “Identities in action: Processes and outcomes.” Scandinavian Journal of Management, 28 (1), 1–4.
  • Gabriel, Y. (2015): “Identity, choice and consumer freedom–the new opiates? A psychoanalytic interrogation.” Marketing Theory, 15 (1), 25–30.
  • Grey, C. (1994): “Career as a project of the self and labour process discipline.” Sociology, 28 (2), 479–497.
  • Hacking, I. (2007): “Kinds of people: Moving targets.” Proceedings of the British Academy, 151, 285–318.
  • Riach, K., Rumens, N., & Tyler, M. (2014): “Un/doing chrononormativity: Negotiating ageing, gender and sexuality in organizational life.” Organization Studies, 35 (11), 1677–1698.
  • Thomas, R., & Davies, A. (2005): “Theorizing the micro-politics of resistance: New public management and managerial identities in the UK public services.” Organization Studies, 26 (5), 683–706.
  • Wieczorek, A.E. (2013): Clusivity: A New Approach to Association and Dissociation in Political Discourse. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Ybema, S., Keenoy, T., Oswick, C., Beverungen, A., Ellis, N., & Sabelis, I. (2009): “Articulating identities.” Human Relations, 62 (3), 299–322.
Christine Coupland is a Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Loughborough University, United Kingdom. Her published work is broadly an exploration of language and identities in work contexts and includes editor roles in two special issues around the study of identities: Brown and Coupland (2012) and Corlett, Coupland, Sheep and McInnes (2017). She is a Senior Editor for ‘Organization Studies’ and reviews for a number of journals. Christine is also a co-founder of the British Academy of Management Special Interest Group ‘Identity’.
Susan Ainsworth is Associate Professor of Organization Studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her research program centres around identity and inequality in relation to work, organizations, institutions, and public policy, particularly relating to issues of gender and age. Susan uses critical and constructionist approaches to studying identity, specializing in discourse analysis. Her work has appeared in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Gender, Work and Organization’.
Andrew D. Brown is Professor of Organization Studies at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. His primary research interests center on issues of identity, especially as they relate to sensemaking, narrative, and power. Andrew’s work has been published in journals including ‘Academy of Management Review’,’ Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Human Relations’.