ICRODSC International Research Workshop

Last updated, 13 Sep 2013
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University of Melbourne
08/06/2009 to 09/06/2009

Discourse and Practice As part of the broader “linguistic turn” (Deetz, 2003) within organizational studies, researchers in organizational discourse theory and analysis study language for its constructive effects on organizational “reality”. Discourse has been described as collections of interrelated texts, as well as the associated practices of their production, distribution and consumption, which “systematically form the object of which they speak” (Foucault, 1979: 49). As such, discourse provides a language for talking about a particular topic, the knowledge we have about it, as well as acceptable ways to think, talk and act in relation to it. Organizational discourse analysis involves the systematic study of texts to explore how discourse contributes to the constitution of social reality through processes of making meaning. In the case of critical discourse analysis, it also recognizes that organizational identities, events, knowledge and objects “come to us as a sedimentation from their formative conditions; they appear self-evident and natural rather than as an outcome of conflictual processes; we see the winner, not the latent conflict process in formation” (Deetz, 2003: 423). It has recently been argued that organization studies is now also characterized by the “practice turn” as a result of the burgeoning work in such areas as communities of practice (Brown & Duguid, 1991), strategy as practice (Jarzabkowski, 2005), and technology as practice (Orlikowski, 2000). Practices are defined as “routinized types of behaviour which consist of several elements, interconnected to one another: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background knowledge in the form of understanding, knowhow, states of emotion and motivational knowledge” (Reckwitz, quoted in Jarzabkowski et al., 2007: 9). They are spatially dispersed, collective accomplishments organized around shared understandings that are “not so much the visible doings of actors per se, but culturally and historically transmitted regularities detectable through the patterns of activities actually carried out” (Chia & MacKay, 2007: 227). This workshop seeks to examine the way in which the work on discourse and on practice might inform each other, and to identify the benefits and challenges associated with combining these approaches. In addressing these themes presenters might like to consider questions such as: • How do material practices develop within historically situated power-knowledge relations and become invested with meaning? • How does discourse give meaning to practices through the ways in which it produces acceptable ways to think and talk? • What are the ways in which language itself constitutes a practice? In what ways does discourse consist of a “complex configuration of systematic linkages between linguistic and material practices (Reed, 1998: 196)? • How are practices informed by texts (e.g., marketing demonstrations, user manuals, instructions, training workshops, strategic plans, etc.)? • At what point and in what way do material practices "disappear" into the discursive realm as representations of embodied performances become “textualized” for the purposes of wider communication? • In what ways do textualized representations of practices become appropriated by other actors? • In what ways do discursive approaches offer opportunities for more reflexive and critical approaches to practice? • What opportunities do practice approaches offer discursive work to attend to a deeper consideration of materiality and embodiment? The workshop will take place, Monday June 8th-Tuesday June 9th 2009 at the University of Melbourne. Guest presenters will include: Robert Chia, Stan Deetz, and Paula Jarzabkowski. Members of ICRODSC are also invited to participate in this workshop by attending and/or making a presentation. If you are interested in attending, please contact Cynthia Hardy: chardy@unimelb.edu.au before 1st September 2008 to reserve your place. Numbers attending the workshop will be limited in order to facilitate discussion and debate and to ensure that sessions are as inter-active as possible.