Stream G – Re-covering Difference in Organization Studies: the Effects of Diversity and its Management
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APROS Colloquium 2013
Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, 15-17 February 2013
Stream G: Re-covering Difference in Organization Studies:
the Effects of Diversity and its Management
Pasi Ahonen Swansea University, UK
Peter Case James Cook University, Australia
David Knights Swansea University, UK
Alison Pullen Swansea University, UK
Carl Rhodes Swansea University, UK
This track will explore the relationship between difference, diversity and diversity management. In particular we wish to consider how the many manifestations of difference and diversity are, both theoretically and practically, becoming subsumed by diversity management, and thereby subjected to managerial control. This is achieved through constituting diversity as a particular kind of object, one that can be addressed, ordered and organized through management techniques and mechanisms (Ahonen &Tienari, 2009). Diversity and what it stands for is thus instrumentalized through management discourses, knowledges and practices (Ahonen &Tienari, 2009; Kirton& Greene, 2005; Zanoni et al., 2010). Together with its instrumentalization, diversity is commodified, reified and strategized for managerial purposes rendering it in danger of eliding the respect for difference that informed it (Knights and Omanović, 2011). The result is that difference risks being elided by ‘diversity’ (Prasad et al., 1997; Wrench, 2005).
In organizations, the ‘discovery’ of the business case for diversity has led to demands for, and in some cases the adoption of, diversity management. In practice this has included attempts to: improve governance or limit risk in the boardroom; foster corporate social responsibility across all business processes; create competitive advantage through cultural strategies; develop the synergies of cultural work teams; and manage the representation of minority groups. Diversity is often paraded as a core corporate value and as a measure of an organization’s responsiveness to its ‘stakeholders’. This approach treats diversity as a culture management problem that can be addressed through appropriate organizational strategies; strategies often coupled with ‘bold’ statements of ‘visionary’ leadership. In this way diversity is rendered as a characteristic of organizations that is ‘good for business’ whether the emphasis is on the ways that a diverse workforce can enable the development of innovation and creativity, the achievement of responsible management, the management of organizational identity and image, and even a means to pull the world economy out of recession. In recent times of global austerity further importance has been placed on the business case for diversity as a short-term agenda with the objective of short-term gains or perceived quick recovery. Yet even on its own terms of ‘bottom line’ benefits, diversity management can be fatally flawed (Noon, 2007).
In response to such developments, in this track we question diversity management and the ‘problem’ of diversity by re-thinking the meaning and value of difference in organizations. We problematize diversity management as a practice that can actually deny difference by commodifying and institutionalizing its particular forms for singular and undifferentiated organizational purposes. With this agenda we join those organizational scholars who have steered away from managerial approaches of diversity research so as to recover diversity as a meaningful analytical, ethical, political and critical organizational concept (e.g. Lorbiecki and Jack, 2000). This bears witness to a nascent return to ‘the basics’ of race, class and gender as central socio-political issues together with newer attention to differences in age and sexual orientation (Benn Michaels, 2006) and their intersectional relationships (Crenshaw, 1991; Bagilhole, 2010).
In questioning dominant approaches we are also concerned withthe effects of diversity management on difference when that management institutionalizes, reifies and taxonomizes difference. This suggests a (re)investigation of the nature of difference through critical readings of forms of (Western) knowledge that diversity management relies on. We are particularly interested in contributions that further such critique and reformulation in relation to feminism, critical race studies (including whiteness studies) and postcolonialism. As such, we ask: what can we learn about approaching and conceptualizing difference from these kinds of directions? Would they enable us to recover difference as the core concept of diversity research? Where would that lead us?
Some areas of which are particularly welcomed are:
- Recent developments in diversity research
- Critical appraisals of intersectionality
- Queering, difference and diversity
- Critical interrogations of the business case for diversity
- Cross-cultural explorations of diversity and its management
- Power, difference and diversity
- Critiques, criticism, policy and progress
- Discrimination, marginality and abjection
- Politics of difference
- Différance and diversity
- (Un)managed identities, difference and diversity
- Leadership, diversity and its management
Ahonen, P. and Tienari, J. (2009). “United in Diversity? Disciplinary Normalization in anEU Project.”Organization,16(5): 655-679.
Bagilhole, B. (2009) Understanding Equal Opportunities and Diversity, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Benn Michaels, W. (2006). The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.
Crenshaw, K. (1991).“Mapping the Margins, Intersectionality, Identity, and Violence Against Women of Color.”Stanford Law Review,(43): 1241-99.
Kirton, G., and Greene, A. (2005). The Dynamics of Managing Diversity. A Critical Approach. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Butterworth‐Heinemann.
Knights D. and V. Omanović, “MisManaging Diversity: Exploring Dangers of Displacing Alternative Perspectives.” Unpublished paper, Dec. 2011.
Lorbiecki, A. and Jack, G. (2000). “Critical Turns in the Evolution of Diversity Management.”British Journal of Management, 11(3): 17-31.
Noon, M. (2007). ‘The Fatal Flaws of Diversity and The Business Case for Ethnic Minorities,”Work, Employment and Society,( 2)4: 773-784.
Prasad, P., Mills, A.J., Elmes, M. and Prasad, A. (1997).Managing the Organizational Melting Pot: Dilemmas of Workplace Diversity. London: Sage.
Wrench, J. (2005). “Diversity Management Can Be Bad for You.” Race & Class, 46(3): 73-84.