Sub-theme 06: [SWG 06] Organizing with More-than-Humans? Post-Human Performativity Amid Perpetual Crisis

Karen Lee Ashcraft
University of Colorado Boulder, USA
Nicolas Bencherki
Université TÉLUQ in Montréal, Canada
Mie Plotnikof
Aarhus University in Copenhagen, Denmark

Call for Papers

Understanding how human organizing also involves non-human agencies, often by exploring the role of technologies and other human-made artifacts, is critical to organization studies (Beyes, et al., 2022; Orlikowski 2000; Putnam, 2015). Scholars examine, for instance, the ways that the interplay between humans and technology changes in response to innovation needs, (dis)organizing work practices intentionally or not (Leonardi & Barley, 2010; Ratner & Plotnikof, 2022). Similar studies discuss how technology transforms workers–making them cyborgs (Haraway, 1985) – ‘extending’ them by datafication, smart devices, or online networks, hence entangling work practices, subjectivities, bodies, and feelings with technology in ever-changing ways (Fleming, 2017; Newlands, 2021). Recently, however, the ‘eco-political’ turn (Haraway, 2016; Latour, 2017) also inspires organization scholars to question how nature and other living species participate in organizing the more-than-human world (Labatut et al., 2016; Nyberg et al., 2022). Such research unpacks, for example, the ways that human-nature and human-animal relations co-produce (more) responsible, sustainable, caring or otherwise alternative forms of organizing (e.g., activist, feminist, Global South, etc.) (Ergene et al., 2018; Houpalainen, 2020). Such efforts help to reimagine how different agencies (re)organize work life amidst perpetual crisis.
This sub-theme explores more-than-human relations and the differences they make to organizing. It will extend above debates by redressing questions of how organizing with more-than-human relations perform and (re)configure work and workers in various – intentional and unintentional – ways responding to present and future challenges. This may well open debates about the ways in which emerging post-humanist approaches to organizing can and should incorporate non-human agencies “anew”, maybe even “better”? The quotation marks signal these as contested terms, open for discussion as we engage with organizational practice and research with various agencies – technology, nature, artifacts, symbols, etc. Such a stance challenges the habitual spotlight on human talk, action and intention, and refocuses on relational performativity of practices, interactions, entanglements and hybridities, etc. It also asks us to remain curious about which agencies come to matter by their relation, demarcating what can be considered ‘new’ or ‘better’ (or the opposite), thus involving ethico-political concerns (Barad, 2007; de la Bellacasa, 2014; Harraway, 2016).
Advancing approaches to decenter the human in organizing has been vigorously debated by the communicative constitution of organization (CCO) scholars, amongst others (Schoeneborn et al., 2019). They argue that it is relationality that is performative of all sorts of (dis)organizing (Kuhn et al., 2017; Vasquéz & Kuhn, 2019). Emphasizing performative relations rather than singular entities relocates focus from who or what ‘has’ agency, to the ways that relational agencies come to matter through multimodal communication practices (Bencherki, 2016; Cooren, 2006). Such a perspective and other approaches to relational performativity, can help to renew how we study organizing with more-than-humans, shedding different light on the potential solutions and challenges such performative relationality pose in neoliberal society.
Recognizing that we live in times that normalize ongoing crisis (Berlant, 2011), and that bodies of all kinds are affected differently by this intensifying state of affairs (Puar, 2017), the sub-theme will be particularly attentive to the way in which post-humanist approaches can help us to productively reconsider matters of power, resistance, authority, identity, affect, population, and their (dis)ordering capacity (Vásquez  & Kuhn, 2019). To adequately address such matters, we consider it crucial to attend closely to the dynamics whereby difference is produced, unsettled, and dismantled – for instance, practices of racializing, gendering, Othering, queering (Ashcraft, 2019; Plotnikof et al., 2022; Raman, 2001). This may also involve demonstrating how more-than-human orientations stand to challenge residual dualisms and distinctions, such as mind vs. body, human vs. machine, culture vs. nature, discourse vs. materiality, emotion vs. affect, and so on.
In this vein, the sub-theme invites submissions that explore organizing with more-than-human-relations from a range of theories, methodologies and contexts. We will also be open to work using a communicatively performative approach, although it may not exclusively focus on the topic of the sub-theme. Below is a list of suggestive – not exhaustive – themes that can be addressed:

  • Which more-than-human relations, practices, identities, and affects emerge from post-humanist approaches to organizing responsive to perpetual change and/or crisis?

  • What do the ‘more’-than-human add to our understanding? How do technologies, nature, multi-species, or other agencies co-create performativity in organizing?

  • Which downsides (problems, shortcomings, challenges etc.) of more-than-human performativity might be at play and how can they be addressed?

  • What becomes of, e.g., power, resistance, diversity, and inequality as post-humanism engenders emerging (new, better?) forms of work practices and subjectivities?

  • What are the ethical considerations of attending to non-human agencies in organizational practices and research of collective (working) lives?

  • What kinds of solidarity and care may emerge from post-humanist approaches to more-than-human performativity in work organizing and subjectivity?

  • How can we decenter research from human action and communication, to explore more-than-human relational performativity at the intersections of, for example, discourse, materiality, and affect?

  • What more-than-human approaches (theorizing, methodology, and analysis) are available and how are we challenged to advance further (e.g., by writing differently)?

  • How can post-human performative approaches support or challenge organizations to engage in responsible ways, when they address various changing societal challenges?


  • Ashcraft, K.L. (2019): “Feeling Things, Making Waste.” In: V. Conzuelo & K. Timothy (eds.): Dis/organization as Communication. Exploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication. New York: Routledge.
  • Barad, K. (2007): Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Bencherki, N. (2016): “How things make things do things with words, or how to pay attention to what things have to say.” Communication Research and Practice, 2 (3), 272–289.
  • Berlant, L.G. (2011): Cruel Optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Beyes, T., Chun, W.H.K., Clarke, J., Flyverbom, M., & Holt, R. (2022): “Ten Theses on Technology and Organization: Introduction to the Special Issue.” Organization Studies, 43 (7), 1001–1018.
  • Cooren, F. (2006): “The organizational world as a plenum of agencies” In: F. Cooren, J.R. Taylor & E.J. Van Every (eds.): Communication as Organizing: Practical Approaches to Research into the dynamic of text and conversation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum , 81–100.
  • de la Bellacasa, M.P. (2011): “Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things.” Social Studies of Science, 41 (1), 85–106.
  • Ergene, S., Calás, M.B., & Smircich, L. (2018): “Ecologies of Sustainable Concerns: Organization Theorizing for the Anthropocene.” Gender, Work & Organization, 25 (3), 222–245.
  • Fleming, P. (2017): “The Human Capital Hoax: Work, Debt and Insecurity in the Era of Uberization.” Organization Studies, 38 (5), 691–709.
  • Haraway, D.J. (1985): “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Socialist Review, 80, 65–107.
  • Haraway, D.J. (2016): Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Huopalainen, A. (2022): “Writing with the bitches.” Organization, 29 (6), 959–978.
  • Labatut, J, Munro, I., & Desmond, J. (2016): “Animals and organizations.” Organization, 23 (3), 315–329.
  • Latour, B. (2017): Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime. Malden, MA: Polity.
  • Leonardi, P.M., & Barley, S.R. (2010): “What’s Under Construction Here? Social Action, Materiality, and Power in Constructivist Studies of Technology and Organizing.” Academy of Management Annals, 4 (1), 1–51.
  • Nyberg, D., Wright, C., & Bowden, V. (2022): Organising Responses to Climate Change. The Politics of Mitigation, Adaptation and Suffering. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Newlands, G. (2021): “Algorithmic Surveillance in the Gig Economy: The Organization of Work through Lefebvrian Conceived Space.” Organization Studies, 42 (5), 719–737.
  • Orlikowski, W.J. (2000): “Using Technology and Constituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying Technology in Organizations.” Organization Science, 11 (4), 404–428.
  • Plotnikof, M., Muhr, S.L., Holck, L., & Just, S. (2022): “Repoliticizing diversity work? Exploring the performative potentials of norm-critical activism.” Gender, Work & Organization, 29 (2), 466-485.
  • Puar, J.K. (2017): The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Putnam, L.L. (2015): “The Discourse–Materiality Relationship.” Journal of Management Studies, 52, 706–716.
  • Raman, S. (2001): “Offshored Workers or New Intellectuals? Emerging from the Great Labour Divide in University Research.” Organization, 8 (2), 441–447.
  • Ratner, H., & Plotnikof, M. (2022): “Technology and Dis/Organization: Digital data infrastructures as partial connections.” Organization Studies, 43 (7), 1049–1067.
  • Schoeneborn, D., Kuhn, T.R., & Kärreman, D. (2019): “The Communicative Constitution of Organization, Organizing, and Organizationality.” Organization Studies, 40 (4), 475–496.
  • Vásquez, C., & Kuhn, T.R. (eds.) (2019): Dis/organization as Communication. Exploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication. New York: Routledge.
Karen Lee Ashcraft is Professor of Organizational Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research examines how relations of difference – such as gender, race, and sexuality – shape various scenes of work and organization, ranging from social services to commercial aviation to academic labor. Karen’s scholarship appears in such venues as Academy of Management Review, Communication Theory, Administrative Science Quarterly, and Management Communication Quarterly. Her recent book, “Wronged and Dangerous: Viral Masculinity and the Populist Pandemic” (2022, Bristol: UP), brings communication, difference, and affect theory to bear on the global surge of right-wing populism in a sobering yet playful, accessible way.
Nicolas Bencherki is an Associate Professor of Organizational Communication at Université TÉLUQ in Montréal, Canada, and an Affiliate Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal. His research investigates the role of communication and materiality in the way community-based organizations perform authority, strategy, membership and other crucial aspects of organizing. Nicolas’ work has appeared, among others, in ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Communication Theory’, and ‘Management Communication Quarterly’. He has co-edited the “Routledge Handbook of the Communicative Constitution of Organization” (published in 2022), as well as “Authority and Power in Social Interaction: Methods and Analysis” (published in 2019).
Mie Plotnikof is an Associate Professor of Public Governance and Organization, Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark. Her research questions the performativity and micro-politics of discourse, subjectivity, difference, temporality, dis/order and power/resistance in everyday work – often in contexts of education and social sectors. Mie has published in outlets such as ‘Gender, Work and Organization’, ‘ephemera’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management’, and in international edited volumes as well as in Danish outlets. She is a member of the editorial collective of ‘ephemera: theory and politics in organization’, and Associate Editor of the journal ‘Gender, Work & Organization’.