Sub-theme 28: Organizing for Inclusion in the Age of Nationalism ---> MERGED with sub-theme 59

Alexei Koveshnikov
Aalto University, Finland
Minna Paunova
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Koen Van Laer
Hasselt University, Belgium

Call for Papers

It is now widely acknowledged that aspects from the socio-political context in which organizations are embedded, such as political developments, societal intergroup relations, legislation, and socio-economic disparities, can contribute to shape the way in which ethnic and religious minorities, non-nationals, migrants, and refugees are perceived and treated in the labour market and in workplaces. This impacts the relations of power between these groups and majority groups in organizations, and the approaches organizations adopt to manage diversity and inclusion (e.g., Paunova, 2017; Romani et al., 2019; Van Laer & Janssens, 2011; Zanoni et al., 2010). One recent societal development that has the potential to severely shape these dynamics is the global rise of national populism (also referred to as right-wing populism or populist nationalism) (Barros & Wanderley, 2020; Brubaker, 2017; Gusterson, 2017; López-Alves & Johnson, 2019; Masood & Nisar, 2020; Robinson & Bristow, 2020), exemplified by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, by the political evolutions in Russia under Putin or in India under Modi, and by the rise of national populist parties across all continents.
The reason these evolutions can have an important impact in organizations is that, despite their local differences, national populist discourses generally reproduce and amplify two important binaries directly related to (the management of) diversity and inclusion. First, they are based on the binary opposition between ethnic and national ‘insiders’ and perceived ‘outsiders’ threatening a nation’s wealth, culture, and security. This not only refers to potential ‘hordes’ of migrants and refugees ready to cross national borders, but also to ethnic minorities who already live within these borders (Brubaker, 2017; López-Alves & Johnson, 2019; Masood & Nisar, 2020). A second binary is one between ‘ordinary’, ‘hard-working’ and ‘common sense thinking’ people in opposition to the ‘corrupt’, ‘politically correct’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ elite (Brubaker, 2017; Gusterson, 2017; Masood & Nisar, 2020). National populism tends to bring these two binaries together by arguing that the ‘cosmopolitan elite’ is mainly concerned about ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants and refugees, and promotes open borders and multiculturalism, while ‘ordinary people’ are suffering from the negative consequences of increasing ethnic, religious, and national diversity in society.
While attention in organization studies for the rise of national populism is emerging (for an overview, see Robinson & Bristow (2020)), there is a need to develop a deeper understanding of the role of such discourses in the barriers, exclusion, and discrimination faced by those deemed ‘not to belong’, be they native-born ethnic and religious minorities, skilled or unskilled migrants, or refugees. This might involve not only barriers directly excluding these groups from the labour market, organizations, and/or certain professions, but also every-day and ‘banal’ expressions of national populism in the construction of ‘Otherness’. In this, more insight is needed in the way both local dynamics and geopolitical ideas such as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth world, ‘the refugee crisis’, and ‘the clash of civilizations’ may play into the impact of these discourses on dynamics of organizational diversity and inclusion. Further attention is also needed to the degree and ways in which certain ethnic minorities and non-nationals become perceived as a threat depending on their religious background or their country of origin. More reflection is similarly needed on the way national populism may feed a new backlash against diversity management, reinforcing ideas that organizational efforts to include ‘the Other’ are nothing more than an attempt at ‘political correctness’, or an ‘elitist’ practice antithetical to the interests of the ethnic majority and the opportunities of ‘local’ disadvantaged groups (such as lower-class, sexual minority, or female employees).
Reflecting the overall theme of the conference and continuing the engaging conversations in earlier sub-themes on migration, ethnicity, and multiculturalism at EGOS Colloquia in 2015, 2017, and 2019, the aim of this sub-theme is to stimulate further debate on – and theorization of – the connections between recent socio-political developments related to rising national populism around the world, and the dynamics related to national, ethnic, and religious diversity and inclusion in organizations. We welcome theoretical, conceptual, qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method papers, which address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • The careers and workplace experiences of ethnic and religious minority, non-national, migrant, and refugee employees, and the way these experiences are connected to rising national populism

  • Different forms of labour market and workplace discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees of different national origins

  • The effects of national or supra-national political and legislative developments on (the management of) workplace diversity and inclusion

  • Organizational policies and practices to manage national and ethnic diversity, and the way they are connected to rising national populism

  • The impact on (the management of) workplace diversity and inclusion of discourses related to ‘political correctness’, ‘liberal’ values, the ‘refugee crisis’, ‘social justice warriors’, ‘virtue signalling’, or ‘anti-white discrimination’

  • The potential challenges related to the organizational inclusion of multiple national and ethnic groups in the context of simultaneous rise in national populism and superdiversity

  • The potential conflicts related to efforts to include different historically disadvantaged groups (e.g., sexual minorities and religious minorities) in organizations

  • The connection between class inequalities, and inequalities related to nationality, religion, and ethnicity in organizations

  • The organization of national populist movements, and the role of multinationals and global capitalism in the spread of national populism and/or cosmopolitanism



  • Barros, A., & Wanderley, S. (2020): “Brazilian businessmen movements: Right-wing populism and the (dis)connection between policy and politics.” Organization, 29 (3), 394–404.
  • Brubaker, R. (2017): “Between nationalism and civilizationism: The European populist moment in comparative perspective.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40 (8), 1191–1226.
  • Gusterson, H. (2017): “From Brexit to Trump: Anthropology and the rise of nationalist populism.” American Ethnologist, 44 (2), 209–214.
  • López-Alves, F., & Johnson, D.E. (2019): Populist Nationalism in Europe and the Americas. London: Routledge.
  • Masood, A., & Nisar, M.A. (2020): “Speaking out: A postcolonial critique of the academic discourse on far-right populism.” Organization, 27 (1), 162–173.
  • Paunova, M. (2017): “Who gets to lead the multinational team? An updated status characteristics perspective.” Human Relations, 70 (7), 883–907.
  • Robinson, S., & Bristow, A. (2020): “Riding populist storms: Brexit, Trumpism and beyond, Special Paper Series Editorial.” Organization, 27 (3), 359–369.
  • Romani, L., Holck, L., & Risberg, A. (2019): “Benevolent discrimination: Explaining how human resources professionals can be blind to the harm of diversity initiatives.” Organization, 26 (3), 371–390.
  • Van Laer, K., & Janssens, M. (2011): “Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences with subtle discrimination in the workplace.” Human Relations, 64 (9), 1203–1227.
  • Zanoni, P., Janssens, M., Benschop, Y., & Nkomo, S. (2010): “Unpacking diversity, grasping inequality: Rethinking difference through critical perspectives.” Organization, 17 (1), 9–29.
Alexei Koveshnikov is an Assistant Professor at the Aalto University in Finland. He does research on politics and power, nationalism, stereotyping, sensemaking and cultural resources in the context of multinational corporations.
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. Her current interests concern multiculturalism, global inequality, and migrant integration at work. Minna has published in journals such as ‘Human Relations’, ‘The Leadership Quarterly’, ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’, and ‘Applied Psychology’, and she serves on the editorial review boards of volumes such as ‘Academy of Management Review’ and ‘Human Resource Management Journal’.
Koen Van Laer is an Associate 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. Koen’s work on diversity, inequality and inclusion has appeared in edited volumes as well as in international journals such as ‘Human Relations’, ‘Organization’, ‘Scandinavian Journal of Management’, and ‘International Journal of Human Resource Management’.