Sub-theme 57: Organizing Human–Nonhuman Relations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Damian O'Doherty
University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Doris Schneeberger
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Linda Tallberg
Hanken School of Economics, Finland

Call for Papers

We are all in the business of organizing life for well-being, even if in the modern business school we have been confined to thinking this within the most restrictive understanding of economy. Only human animals count in terms of the management of well-being. Thinking and practice in management and organization privilege the human species and neglect non-human forms of life. Plants and other animals, soil and its mycorrhizal networks, water, air and fire are only considered resources for the purposes of work and extraction. In this sub-theme we want to know how we might ‘get in touch’ with this expanded ecology of organization for business futures in which we can no longer maintain a one-way process of economic extraction. We are interested in how we might learn to think about organizing the good life across species-beings and how we might need to understand survival and adaptation as one that entails an extended relationality with multi-species well-being.
How can organization studies help with these most urgent of questions? Many have begun to note, for example, that nonhuman animals circulate as shadows or spectral forms of life and death in organizations including as unpaid labour and raw materials, but also as clothing and calorific energy for human animals who variously expend their acquired energy as managers, executives, or workers. The ‘animal studies’ turn is now well-established in organization studies (Pina e Cunha et al., 2019; Doré & Michalon, 2017; Labatut et al., 2016; O’Doherty, 2016; Sayers et al., 2019, 2021; Tallberg & Hamilton, 2022), albeit still marginalised and neglected by the mainstream. And yet, we still rarely think that our human good life often depends on the poor life of nonhumans. Even more infrequent are efforts to think what the good life might mean for nonhumans from an organization studies approach or how we might reimagine our organizing efforts to benefit all life for a more inclusive and ethical future for diverse species.
We might see these limitations as the result of speciesism, the discrimination of certain animals because of their species membership (Horta, 2010) or because we have privileged profit-based motives that ignore intersectional human-nonhuman suffering in our industrial systems, such as that which exists in most forms of animal agriculture. Another critical aspect of inviting and considering nonhuman life relates to the often complex human-nonhuman relationships at work (Tallberg & Jordan, 2021) that may impact a good life across species. Although the situation nonhuman animals face in the animal industry is dire, relationships between human and nonhuman animals in business contexts range on a spectrum from violently exploitative to more benign ways of relating (cf. O’Doherty, 2016). Can we expand our moral circle from an organization studies perspective and consider the interests of those belonging to other species and those who will inhabit this planet in the future (Delmestri & Schneeberger, 2022)? If so, how can we create an engaged organizational scholarship (Ergene et al., 2021) for all life which responds to the challenges of our time? And how can we reimagine business education to better include, care about and ethically consider the wellbeing and rights of nonhuman life in our current and future organizations (Sayers et al., 2021; Tallberg et al., 2022)?
We make the claim that imagination disciplined by the rigour of organization analysis prepares and enables new forms of action and learning with other than human life forms. Who amongst us in organization studies is capable and willing to extend what people like Donna Haraway (2013) have done in studies of companion species, or follow the practical and scholarly endeavours of Charles Foster (2016) who designed a series of phenomenological studies to learn how to ‘become a beast’? What do organization studies scholars have to contribute here? How can we move beyond anthropocentrism in practice and in theory considering the complicated psychological, cultural, and philosophical aspects of our human-nonhuman animal relationships (Beauchamp & Frey, 2011; Dhont & Hodson, 2020). Finally, how can we build humane or post-human work, organizations and industries that promote the wellbeing of both humans and nonhumans? Is this even possible?
In this sub-theme, we therefore wish to collaboratively imagine, from a distinctively organization studies perspective, what an interspecies “good life for all” could look like as well as discuss the challenges nonhumans face today. To this end we invite empirical, conceptual, methodological, and experimental contributions reflecting on nonhuman life in organizations and in (other) economic contexts and welcome all disciplinary affiliations from specialists in ‘population ecology’ to ‘intersectionality’, ‘queer studies’ and beyond.


  • Beauchamp, T., & Frey, R. (eds.) (2019): The Oxford Handbook for Animal Ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Delmestri, G., & Schneeberger, D. (2022): “Organizational Change and Work Spirituality: Expanding the Moral Circle.” In: Y. Altman, J. Neal, & W. Mayrhofer (eds.): Workplace Spirituality: Making a Difference. Berlin: De Gruyter, 95–109.
  • Dhont, K., & Hodson, G. (eds.) (2020): Why We Love and Exploit Animals. London: Routledge.
  • Doré, A., & Michalon, J. (2017): “What makes human–animal relations ‘organizational’? The description of anthrozootechnical agencements.” Organization, 24 (6), 761–780.
  • Ergene, S., Banerjee, S., & Hoffman, A. (2021): “(Un)sustainability and organization studies: Towards a radical engagement.” Organization Studies, 42 (8), 1319–1335.
  • Foster, C. (2016): Being a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide. London: Macmillan.
  • Haraway, D. (2013): When species meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Horta, O. (2010): “What is speciesism?” The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23, 243–266.
  • Labatut, J., Munro, I., & Desmond, J. (2016): “Animals and organizations.” Organization, 23 (3), 315–329.
  • O’Doherty, D. (2016): “Feline politics in organization: The nine lives of Olly the cat.” Organization, 23 (3), 407–433.
  • Pina e Cunha, M., Rego, A., & Munro, I. (2019): “Dogs in organizations.” Human Relations, 72 (4), 778–800.
  • Sayers, J., Hamilton, L., & Sang, K. (2019): “Organizing animals: Species, gender and power at work.” Gender, Work and Organization, 26 (3), 239–245.
  • Sayers. J., Martin, L., & Bell, E. (2022): “Posthuman affirmative business ethics: Reimagining human-animal relations through speculative fiction.” Journal of Business Ethics, 178, 597–608.
  • Tallberg, L., & Hamilton, L. (eds.) (2022): The Oxford Handbook of Animal Organisation Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Tallberg, L., & Jordan, P.J. (2021): “Killing Them ‘Softly’ (!): Exploring Work Experiences in Care-Based Animal Dirty Work.” Work, Employment and Society.
  • Tallberg, L., Välikangas, L., & Hamilton, L. (2022): “Animal activism in the business school: Using fierce compassion for teaching critical and positive perspectives.” Management Learning, 53 (1), 55–75.
Damian O'Doherty is Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he is also departmental Research Director for the Work, Organization and Management Group. Damian has published widely in top international journals dedicated to management and organization studies over the last twenty years.
Doris Schneeberger is a University Assistant at the Institute for Change Management and Management Development at VU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. In her current research, she focuses on the role of nonhuman animals in organizations.
Linda Tallberg is Assistant Professor of Management and Organization at Hanken School of Economics, Finland. Her research focuses on human-nonhuman animal relations in business and society through a lens of care, ethics and justice.