Sub-theme 53: Perfectly Imperfect: Embodied Theories and Methods for Self and System Transformation --- CANCELLED!


Call for Papers

This sub-theme will explore the embodied aspects of work in a post-pandemic world, discovering how the imperfections of our bodies can enliven struggling organizations and create possibilities for anti-ableist social transformation.
In keeping with the EGOS Colloquium 2022 theme, we are particularly interested how we may organize differently if we noticed, and valued, bodily imperfections. We invite attention to any form of work in any domain or level of analysis that takes an explicitly embodied perspective. Recasting our micro to meta institutions as lived and living allows us to question how they disable or enable a broader range of embodied contributions at work, so we can programmatically and collaboratively experiment with more equitable and inclusive ‘new normals’.
This sub-theme is intended to provide the opportunity for organizational scholars to (re)discover the embodied qualities of their research phenomena by paying explicit attention to how the imperfections of our bodies may interfere with our current observations and interpretations of work (Heaphy, 2017; Heaphy & Dutton, 2008). The variety of bodies at work has not yet been met by a requisite variety of embodied theories or methods in organizations, despite decades of dedicated, often first-person disclosure available from several adjacent disciplines, most notably in disability studies, psychology, psychiatry and mental health, and body as a site, ritual, and means of consumption.
Our goal is to initiate a multi-disciplinary conversation that borrows bodily theoretical insight and methodological toolkits in order to include a much more expansive and future-oriented range of embodied abilities in our workplaces. By bringing the imperfect body in (rather than leaving it out), we hope to jointly begin exploring the conjunction between self- and system-transformation.
Papers may address, but are not limited to the following themes:

  • Embodied organizing for self and system transformation that mainstream new forms of connectivity and inclusion by broadening the mind-body continuum (Merleau-Ponty, 1962)

  • The dynamics of lived experience and expertise for social advocates, activists and allies scaffolding radical or large-scale change initiatives

  • The interplay between different bodies in noticing and responding to suffering at work

  • Anticipatory and agile responses that leverage one’s bodily imperfections to connect and attend to others in distress

  • Exploring how different abilities create affordances for multi- and inter-bodied sensemaking and learning, especially in crises situations

  • The relevance and representation of one’s body in (de)stigmatizing (in)visible bodily imperfections such as mental illness, aging and chronic illness, grief and loss from everyday interactions to the founding of radical alternatives and/or novel categories

  • The role of embodied exchanges in emerging theories and practices of care, compassion, courage, and energy

  • (Dis)embodied narratives, metaphors and practices at work and bodily paradoxes as sites for post-human (Braidotti, 2013) (self)discovery and identity work

  • The role of bodies in creating virtuous or vicious cycles of pain within organizations, especially in settings devoted to and designed for alleviating pain (e.g., healthcare, education, social support)

  • The interpretations of bodies as sites and means of resistance to social exclusion and marginalization as in the case of homelessness, displacement, immigration, addiction, modern slavery, physical restriction, among others

  • Opportunities to future-proof one’s body by early adoption of new technologies and new forms of exploitation that reset expectations that exceed current levels of abilities (in competitive settings such as sports, but also in caregiving contexts such as field hospitals or large-scale emergency response by rapid response groups)

  • How the bodily rhythms play out at work and across domains and how bodies remember and translate traumas and dramas across domains of activity

  • The interplay between human and non-human bodies, with special attention to cross-species distress following dramatic destruction of non-human lives by humanly caused events (floods, fires, habitat destruction) and inter-species support via new forms of conservation and rescue

  • Philosophical/theoretical concepts for studying the body as a site of future-making, with specific attention to reversals in expectations and expertise during transitions among work arrangements that favour (or forget) differently abled bodies

We encourage self-representation methods such as lived, rapid, or recursive ethnographies that celebrate the changing relationships with, and among, bodies co-traversing different stages of distress and resilience. Approaches for studying bodies and (dis)embodiment including combinations of autoethnographies and biographies, art-based methods such as selfies, portraiture, caricature, poetry, therapeutic writing, dance/movement, and other modalities of public representation of post-human selves, rhythmanalysis, are particularly fitting and welcome.
We welcome body-centric analogies and anomalies, with emphases on the malleability, mutability and mutuality of the body, especially vis-à-vis third parties and different types of power hierarchies. Socio-material extensions of one’s body and their role on (perceived) expertise and exchanges at work can also begin to question and stretch boundaries and afford new insights on identity and belonging by witnessing the shared humanity in different bodies at work.


  • Braidotti, R. (2013): The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Heaphy, E.D. (2017): “‘Dancing on hot coals’: How emotion work facilitates collective sensemaking.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (2), 642–670.
  • Heaphy, E.D., & Dutton, J.E. (2008): “Positive Social Interactions and the Human Body at Work: Linking Organizations and Physiology.” Academy of Management Review, 33 (1), 137–162.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962): Phemonology of Perception. London & New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.