Sub-theme 28: Trust, distance and ambiguous relationships


Sabina Siebert, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Lucy Taksa, Macquarie University, Australia
Barbara Czarniawska, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Call for Papers

Trust is said to be a fundamental component of human action (Sztompka, 1999), and as a topic has in recent years become an important focus of organization studies. Yet much of the current scholarship on trust neglects questions concerning the politics of globalization and localization, the changing nature of work and professions, and the introduction of technologies that facilitate new forms of communication in newly-created networks. As a result, little attention has been given to the issue of distance. Distance – geographical, social, cognitive and emotional – is an obvious factor in these developments and one which merits further attention in relation to how trust is created, maintained, disrupted and repaired.

No doubt the relationship between trust and distance is complex, especially now, when globalization has blurred the boundaries between peoples, and between organizations. New technologies and new forms of communication have changed the relationship between ‘here’ and ‘there’, ‘us’ and ‘them’, and between locals and strangers, creating ‘grey areas of ambivalence’ (Bauman, 2010: 89) and ambiguities arising from the interplay of cultures.

These ambiguities have been well captured by the notion of glocalization, a term which emphasizes the simultaneous drive to universalize and to particularize (Robertson, 1994). In Bauman’s view, glocalization involves a ‘process of stripping locality of its importance, while at the same time adding to its significance’ (2010: 142). The term also highlights changes in the ways distance and proximity are experienced, thought about, and conceptualized. Consequently, it raises questions about how tensions and intersections between the global and the local affect various kinds of trust.

We invite submissions that can help us understand the increasingly ambiguous relationship between trust and distance. What theories can explain the relationship between these two concepts? What methodologies help to explore the relationship? What are the coordinates of distance, and how do they affect trust?

Possible lines of research might address the following issues and questions:

  • Does globalization serve to enhance proximity and therefore relations of trust?
  • Many scholars of social capital emphasise the importance of trust in the maintenance of networks and in ensuring mutual reciprocity. For some of these scholars direct relations are of critical importance, for others it is the position in the network. How does virtual communication affect the development of social capital? Can virtual closeness provide the basis for ongoing relationships of trust among workers and between them and their supervisors? Do the new forms of communications technology lead to greater surveillance that has the potential to generate distrust?
  • Does ‘nomadic work’, which involves physical distance, give rise to ambiguities around the notions of closeness and trust? ‘Boundaryless careers’ and workforce mobility create the impression that ‘everyone is a tourist, an immigrant, a refugee, an exile, or a guest worker’ (Denzin, 2002: xii) – in other words, a stranger. Do communities trust a stranger who ‘comes today and goes tomorrow’ (Simmel, 1908)? How do frequent transfers between jobs and places affect relations of trust?


Bauman, Zygmunt (2010) This is not a diary. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Denzin, Norman K. (2002) Interpretive ethnography: Ethnographic practices for the 21st century. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Robertson, Ronald (1994) Globalisation or glocalisation? Journal of International Communication 1 (1): 33-52.

Simmel, Georg (1908/1950) The stranger. In: Wolff, K. (ed.) The sociology of Georg Simmel. New York: Free Press, 402-408.


Sztompka, Piotr (1999) Trust: A sociological theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.



Sabina Siebert is a Senior Lecturer in Management in the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. Her research interests include organizational trust and trust repair, socialisation into professions, and management in the creative industries.  She employs a range of qualitative methodologies including discourse analysis and organizational ethnography.


Lucy Taksa is Professor of Management and Head of the Department of Marketing and Management at Macquarie University. Her research interests include the impact of management on workplace culture and education, social capital and the politics of place, gender, diversity and nicknaming as a source of inclusion and exclusion.


Barbara Czarniawska is Professor of Management Studies and studies such contemporary phenomena such as connections between popular culture and practice of management; management of overflow; big city management – exploring techniques of fieldwork and the applications of narratology in social sciences.


Posted On: June 8, 2014
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