ساخت هویت با تفاوت های شالوده شکنی: مشارکت های ساخت و ساز در سراسر تقسیمات فرهنگی و سلسله مراتبی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|3568||2012||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Scandinavian Journal of Management, Volume 28, Issue 1, March 2012, Pages 48–59
Organizational studies of collective identity tend to describe how identities are discursively enacted through claims of a group's uniqueness and the articulation of distinctions between a putative ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ethnographic case study presented in this paper describes organizational actors’ collective identity talk which follows a fundamentally dissimilar pattern. Staff members of an international non-governmental organization (NGO) – a Dutch human rights organization working in development aid – do not polarise, but instead depolarise differences between themselves and their ‘Southern’ partners in their identity talk. For ideological (egalitarian) and strategic (partnership-building) reasons they smooth out, trivialise or upend differences by (i) adopting a ‘thin’ notion of cultural identity, (ii) depicting one's self as ‘strange’ and adjusting to ‘normal’ others, (iii) levelling out hierarchical differences, and (iv) constructing an inclusive ‘we’ in talk of personal relationships. Our exploration shows, first, how organizational actors build and maintain partnerships across social and cultural boundaries in their identity discourse. Second, it opens up new ways of thinking about the formation of identity by drawing attention to various discursive practices of identity construction which are essentially different from the forms of collective identity talk usually described in the literature. Finally, we contribute to studies of organizational identity by sensitizing research to the fundamental variety and situatedness of collective identity talk.
Discursive analyses of collective identity describe social actors’ presentation of ‘self’ and their shifting positioning in relation to ‘others’ in discourse (Ellis & Ybema, 2010). Usually, individuals position their collective selves by imagining boundaries which separate a unified and superior ‘us’ from a different, and often less respectable or less powerful ‘them’ (Jenkins, 2008: 110; Ybema, Keenoy, et al., 2009). Organizational scholars explain such distinction drawing as the speaker's attempt to establish or maintain a “moral uprightness” of their ‘self’ vis-à-vis others (Watson, 2009), to preserve or repair a favourable image of self (e.g. Brown, 1997), to negotiate us-and-them boundaries (e.g. Coupland, Blyton, & Bacon, 2005), to effectuate actors’ inclusion and exclusion (e.g. Jack, Calás, Nkomo, & Peltonen, 2008), and/or to construct or contest superiority and inferiority (e.g. Vaara, Tienari, Piekkari, & Säntti, 2005). In all these accounts, collective identity is theorized as a discourse of differences and disparity between ‘self’ and ‘other’. However, if identity is essentially about distinction drawing and boundary setting, how then do organizational actors position their collective identities when they are responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships across established boundaries? When organizational actors ‘reach out’ to ‘others’, how does their identity talk break down or bridge social and cultural divides which separate ‘us’ from ‘them’? Organizational analyses of collective identity hardly address such questions. Only few studies describe identity talk which adopts and promotes a more inclusive identity and seeks to cut across us-and-them divides (e.g. Coupland et al., 2005 and Ellis and Ybema, 2010), which suggests that organizational research into collective identity might still have some relatively uncharted territories to explore. Apparently, the focus on members’ sense of ‘groupness’ and distinctiveness has deflected attention away from boundary-effacing or ‘bridge-building’ identity discourse. In a more general vein, this points to the need to sensitize research to ‘the varied ways in which identity might be shaped within organizational talk’ ( McInnes & Corlett, 2012: 22) and within various social settings. We aim to develop such a sensitivity to different, context-specific types of identity talk by analysing one somewhat unusual type of collective identity talk. In this paper, we do not describe boundary-setting us–them talk. Instead, we explore identity talk which attempts to ignore, reframe or smooth away differences and, ultimately, to upend rather than uphold relations of superiority and inferiority. Members of a Dutch human rights NGO involved in building and maintaining global partnerships called Aim for human rights deconstruct or downplay cultural and hierarchical differences. So, we ask, what discursive strategies do staff members of Aim for human rights adopt when positioning themselves vis-à-vis their international counterparts? Our case analysis shows how organizational actors build and maintain partnerships across social and cultural boundaries in their everyday discourse. Second, it opens up new ways of thinking about the formation of collective identity in organization studies by drawing attention to identity talk which disrupts established us-them distinctions and builds cross-boundary relationships. Third, we contribute to studies of organizational identity in a more general vein by developing analytical sensitivity towards the variety of ways in which organizational actors talk identities into being and the situatedness of these different types of collective identity talk. The argument proceeds as follows. First, we outline our theoretical argument in more detail, illustrating our claims by discussing interpretive studies of cross-cultural communication. Second, we explain the ethnographic research methodology used in the case and our discursive ‘take’ on analysing cultural identity. After briefly introducing the empirical setting, we then turn to the empirical findings that illustrate what discursive strategies members adopted to deconstruct or downplay cultural differences and hierarchical disparity between themselves and their international counterparts. We conclude with some thoughts on the contribution of our study to the understanding of discursively constructed identity of organizational actors involved in building boundary-transcending relationships.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
We began this paper by pointing out that organizational research into collective identity is generally focused on processes of distinction drawing. By prioritizing boundary-setting self-other talk, collective identity research has, in a way, ‘ghetto-ized’ (Coupland & Brown, 2012) itself. What remained underexplored in these studies was how organizational actors articulate their collective identity when building and maintaining relationships across social and cultural boundaries, such as in the development aid sector. So, we have asked, what discursive strategies do staff members of Aim for human rights adopt when positioning themselves vis-à-vis their international counterparts? Our findings suggest that staff members of Aim engaged in collective identity talk which smoothes out cultural and hierarchical differences between ‘us’ and ‘them’. To accomplish this, they had various ways of positioning themselves in relation to their partners. First, they refrained from claiming an imposing and exclusive (or ‘thick’) identity for themselves. Instead, they adopted a ‘thin’, more inclusive notion of self by carefully avoiding talking about culture and undercommunicating cultural differences. By discounting, trivialising and tabooing culture and difference they tried to clear the way for cross-boundary collaboration with ‘Southern’ partners. So, instead of blowing up cultural differences and picturing them as unbridgeable (a discursive strategy often described in the literature on collective identity in organizations), members of Aim preferred to play down and blot out distinctiveness. This boundary-effacing strategy thus removed a barrier that might stand in the way of a strong partnership. At other times Aim members adopted a second discursive strategy in which they did not discard cultural differences but managed to give them a peculiar twist. They acknowledged cultural differences, but they sought to familiarise themselves with the cultural other while simultaneously being critically sensitive about the “cultural baggage” they brought along themselves. This way, they moved away from the usual us-and-them pattern in collective identity talk which purports they are different and strange (and should thus adapt to us) and towards a notion that we ourselves are oddly different and “out-of-touch with most of the world”, because, for instance, ‘we’ get down to business right from the start without socializing first. Therefore, ‘we’ should adjust to ‘them’ and follow ‘their’ habit of first drinking tea before doing business. By what we called ‘othering the self’ and adjusting to the ‘normal’ other, Aim members depolarised potential differences and blurred us-and-them boundaries. They took full responsibility for salving or surmounting cultural difficulties and unilaterally bridged the us–them divide by being critical about ‘us’ and trying to understand and adjust to ‘them’. To downplay the power imbalance between themselves and their ‘Southern’ counterparts members of Aim for human rights adopted a third discursive strategy in their collective identity talk. Here they drew on difference-levelling and dominancy-hiding discourse. Aim members held a powerful position when entering into a partnership, because they raised the finance for a project and decided on what project to pursue and which ‘Southern’ partners to involve. Still, Aim members maintained they were on an equal footing with their ‘Southern’ partners, even though they knew local partners did not experience the relationship as equal. Staff members pointed at the Memorandum of Understanding which formally laid down the equality of partners in a project and referred to such empowering notions as mutual interests and ‘local ownership’ of a project. They insisted that they should not be seen as neo-colonial providers of donor money, but instead as knowledge workers with professional expertise in the field of human rights. Although Aim members occasionally acknowledged the importance of a top-down approach in dealing with partners, they thus invested heavily in an egalitarian discourse which denied or downplayed their own privileged position and any power discrepancies in the partnership. The basic aim of staff members’ discursive strategies in relation to their ‘Southern’ counterparts was thus to overcome differences and evade difficulties in establishing a strong partnership. The fourth and final strategy we described in this paper highlights Aim members’ partnership discourse: talk of building and maintaining a ‘personal relationship’ with partners. Such talk constructs a ‘we’ which cuts across boundaries between staff members of Aim and their foreign partners, bringing them together in one strong relationship. Aim members maintained that, in the end, it was not culture or power that counted in partnerships, but being humane, conveying empathy and showing solidarity. One might only get things done through personal ties with local partners. Building and maintaining such personal bonds was thus crucial for building bridges across cultural, hierarchical and neo-colonial divides. Our exploration of various discursive ‘strategies’ or ‘moves’ of organizational actors involved in building partnerships across cultural and hierarchical boundaries shows how detailed and in-depth research attention sensitizes organizational research to relatively underexplored varieties of collective identity talk. While many studies of collective identity describe how organizational actors draw on culture or hierarchy to articulate and secure their identities, this paper explored instead how members of a humanitarian NGO systematically sought to play down these two central identity markers. Aim members smoothed away cultural differences and levelled out hierarchical disparity vis-à-vis their international counterparts. For ideological (egalitarian) and strategic (partnership-building) reasons, they bridged potential divides by authoring the particular version of ‘self’ and ‘other’ as equal partners jointly aiming for human rights. They managed to break down barriers in inventive ways. Ascribing normality to the cultural other and treating ‘them’ as the benchmark against which ‘our’ strangeness is measured (a strategy we described as othering the self and adjusting to the other) is, for instance, a radical inversion of the usual ‘we normal, you strange’-type of collective identity talk described in studies of intergroup competition and cross-cultural communication. Aim members refuse to dissociate themselves from their partners. For that reason they do not set up a firm boundary and a ‘thick’ and superior notion of ‘us’ against an inferior ‘them’, but instead they adopt a ‘thin’ notion of self, refusing to other ‘them’ as strange and inferior. Perhaps attempting to avoid any terminology which could hint at expressions of neo-colonial or racial discourse (Eriksson Baaz, 2005: 154), members of Aim for human rights blurred or broke down symbolic boundaries and depolarised potential differences, hoping to clear the way for a partnership which rested on equality, trust and respect. Hence, this study shows evidence of how identities are ‘caught in webs of power and political interest’ and can thus be seen as ‘performances with particular audiences in mind’ (Coupland & Brown, 2012: 2; 4). The research described in this article points to a need in identity research to place emphasis on power, context and situation in relation to the varieties in organizational actors’ identity discourse. As the articles in this issue illustrate each in its own way, there appear to be various and sometimes circuitous discursive routes through which identities are performed, controlled, reconciled, negotiated or confirmed (cf. McInnes & Corlett, 2012). Organizational actors may draw upon relational or temporal resources, engage in inward-facing or outward-facing identity talk, routinely reproduce or resist identity scripts, or seek to draw distinctions or to downplay differences. Identity talk comes in a wide variety of situation-specific forms. Analytically, this points to greater significance being placed on the social setting and situational interests in analyses of identity discourse. What types of identity talk do actors engage in when, for instance, they are pulled in different directions (Beech et al., 2012 and Wapshott and Mallett, 2012), placed in unequal power relationships (Ybema & Byun, 2009), regulated by an intrinsic love for the job and loveless demands placed on them (Clarke et al., 2012), engaged in political struggles over transformational change (Ybema, 2010), or involved in building ‘bonds’ and ‘bridges’ across social or cultural divides. Methodologically, the challenge is that discursive analyses of organizational identity become more sensitive to situation and context by alternating ‘extreme close-ups’ that zoom in on people's situated identity talk, with ‘wide-angle’ or ‘long shots’ that zoom out and show panoramic views of institutional contexts, historical backgrounds, power relations, and meta-discourses (Ybema, Yanow, et al., 2009). This study suggests that there is much to be gained by turning our analytical attention to the situated sensemaking practices performed by actors working across cultural and organizational boundaries. Since this is an exploratory study, however, more research is clearly in order. As a means of appreciating more fully the role of situated action in constructing collective identities in cross-boundary collaboration, there is a need to complement the research presented in this paper with studies of collective identity within other social contexts. More specifically, there is a need for research that explores identity talk of organizational actors who build and maintain relationships across institutional, social, and cultural boundaries. If self-other identity talk is context-bound and can be different from one situation to another, it is relevant to explore where and when particular types of talk become ideologically, emotionally or politically opportune for organizational actors. For this purpose, it may be instructive to take a perspective that is sensitive to the subtleties in identity talk that organizational members use to position themselves vis-à-vis others and to take into account the situated and negotiated dimensions of cross-boundary relations.