Thinking Critically about Affect in Organization Studies

Last updated, 1 Jul 2014
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Special Issue of Organization

Call for Papers – Special Issue for Organization: The Critical Journal of Organization, Theory and Society 


Deadline 28th February 2015 

Guest Editors: 

Marianna Fotaki, University of Warwick, UK 

Kate Kenny, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK 

Sheena Vachhani, University of Bristol, UK 

Affect is what hits us when we walk into a room and inexplicably sense an atmosphere, an ineffable aura, tone or spirit that elicits particular sensations. It is what is evoked by bodily experiences as they pass from person to person, in a way that is contagious but remains unspoken. A yawn or a smile can travel between subjects, often increasing in its intensity as it does so (Tomkins, 1963). Hence affect is a force that places people in a co-subjective circuit of feeling and sensation, rather than standing alone and independent; affect highlights our interdependencies (Brennan, 2004). Affect is therefore what occurs when bodies encounter each other, and before the resulting intensities have been categorized and named as emotions. 

The concepts of emotion and affect are often used loosely and interchangeably, but for the purpose of this call we distinguish between the two. Due to an inherent tendency to categorize states of being, scholarly work on emotion can freeze affective experience and destroy its import (Deleuze, 2005; Massumi, 2002). There is an aspect of bodily experience that eludes interpretation by language, escaping its logic and refusing to conform to its expectations (Deleuze, 1997). Affect attempts to evoke these states of being, rather than to analyze their later discursive representation as emotions. For this reason, the distinction between the two is important and, while acknowledging the relevance of on-going work on emotions for organization studies (Barsade and Gibson, 2007; Elfenbein, 2008; Fineman, 2003, 2010; Loseke, 2009; Stearns and Stearns, 1985; Wright and Nyberg, 2012), we invite contributions that instead emphasise affect more broadly in the terms we conceptualize it here. That is to say, affect as an excess, an experience that escapes discursive capture and naming and as the promise of a new state of becoming that can destabilize and unsettle us into potentially new states of being (Massumi, 1996). In other words, affect allows us to see, anew, the ‘texture’ of the world, as it is lived and experienced. Thus we also invite submissions that tackle how affect is mobilized or encountered in pre-reflexive bodily encounters and in group situations; for example, the ways in which muscles are set in motion in the rhythm of physical labour in order to achieve coordinated collaborative action (Cyphert, 2001). We may also think of the affective connections experienced at sporting events, music concerts, protest marches or the implicit esprit de corps of the military as other examples. 

Overall, the Call is set out to generate exciting new avenues for the study of organization, promising theoretical directions, methodological approaches and radical potential for critical investigation. Indeed it has influenced other fields of social science in this way over the past fifteen years (Ahmed, 2004; Berlant, 2011; Butler, 1997; Clough, 2006; Massumi, 1996; Sedgwick, 2003). It is these potentialities that our Special Issue seeks to explore, and we invite papers that speak to the ideas therein. The aim is to engage with theoretical perspectives and critiques of affect, develop methodological approaches evoked by the concept, and interrogate the potential of affect for the critical investigation of how organizations work. In what follows, we outline potential avenues for exploration of these themes. 

Invitation to authors 

This call is unique in its request for contributions that develop concepts of affect from a variety of perspectives to critically analyse organizations and organizing, providing fresh and even controversial insights. In so doing, we build upon a small but burgeoning body of work in which authors have engaged with these ideas in order to better understand organizational life (Beyes and Steyaert, 2013; Borch, 2010; Iedema et al., 2006; Fotaki et al., 2012; Kenny, 2012; Vachhani, 2013). Analyses of organizations and affect is nascent but we now witness a growing interest as evidenced by the large number of international as well as empirically and theoretically diverse submissions to a recent conference subtheme Affect at Work: Bringing the psychosocial to organizations and organizing (EGOS 2013, organized by some of the co-editors of this Call. 

Building on a recent Special Issue in Organization on ‘Ethics, Embodiment and Organizations’ (Pullen et al, 2013) and the expanding interest in corporeal ethics and affective relations (Iedema et al, 2006; Pullen and Rhodes, 2013), our Special Issue makes space for specific focus on new critical, ethical and political perspectives on affect, organizations and organizing. We seek to build on this scholarship in the organizational field and to explore whether and how affect can provide new and fruitful lenses for the analysis of organizational life, in areas such as organizational ethics, identity, culture, power and resistance, and also in approaches to organizational research and writing. We encourage engagements with these areas of scholarship, but not exclusively. We invite contributions that consider aspects including but not limited to: 

 The political and social implications of affect in organizations and organizing 

 Affect and organizational ethics 

 The relation between affect, identification and culture in organizations 

 Historical and cross-cultural interpretations of affect 

 The inter-corporeal transmission of affect in organizations 

 The ‘darker side’ of affect within organizations 



 The concept of emotion alongside that of affect: what disjunctures and commensurabilities, if any, exist between the two? 

 Affect as practice, in relation to how we represent and write organizations in scholarly work 

 Methodological questions around studying affect in empirical settings, in addition to studies that focus on the abstract, theoretical tenets of affect 

 Questioning dominant assumptions within existing theories of affect, and the implicit ‘barriers’ between different schools of thought 


These themes are not finite and we welcome other creative, interesting and innovative approaches that address the issues presented here. 


Ahmed, S. (2004) Affective economies. Social Text 79, 22(2), 117-139. 

Barsade, S.G. and Gibson, D.E. (2007) ‘Why does affect matter in organizations?’, Academy of Management Perspectives, 21: 36-59. 

Berlant, L. G. (2011) Cruel Optimism. Durham, Duke University Press. 

Beyes, T. and Steyaert, C. (2013) ‘Strangely familiar: The uncanny and unsiting organizational analysis’, Organization Studies, 34(10): 1145-1465. 

Borch, C (2010) ‘Organizational Atmospheres: Foam, Affect and Architecture’, Organization, 17(2): 223–241 

Brennan, T. (2004) The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. 

Butler, J. (1997) The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection. London: Routledge. 

Clough, P. (2006). ‘Sacrifice, Mimesis and the Theorizing of Victimhood’. Representations, 94: 131-49. 

Cyphert, D (2001) ‘Learning to “Yo!”: Synchronicity and Rhythm in the Creation of a Public Sphere’, American Communication Journal, 4(2): 1-11. 

Deleuze, G. (1997) Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. D. W. Smith & M. A. Greco, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

Deleuze, G. (2005) Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation (D. W.Smith, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

Elfenbein, A.C. (2008) ‘Emotion in Organizations', The Academy of Management Annals, 1(1): 315 - 386 

Fineman, S. (2003). Understanding Emotion at Work. London: Sage 

Fineman, S., (2010). 'Emotion in organizations - A critical turn'. In: Sieben, B. and Wettergren, Å. (eds). Emotionalizing Organizations and Organizing Emotions. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 23-41. 

Fotaki, M., Long, S and Schwartz, H.S. (2012) ‘What can psychoanalysis offer organization studies today? Taking stock of current developments and thinking about future directions’, Organization Studies, 33(9): 1104-1120. 

Hjorth, D and Pelzer, P (2007) ‘The fate of Phateon: Baroque art for management’s sake?’, Organization, 14(6): 869–886. 

Iedema, R., Rhodes, C. and Scheeres H., (2006) ‘Surveillance, resistance, observance: exploring the teleo-affective volatility of workplace interaction’, Organization Studies, 27(8): 1111-1130. 

Kenny, K. (2012). ‘“Someone big and important”: Identification and affect in an international development organization’. Organization Studies, 33(9): 1175-1193, 

Loseke, D.R., (2009). 'Examining emotion as discourse: Emotion codes and presidential speeches justifying war'. Sociological Quarterly, 50 (3):497-524. 

Massumi, B. (1996) ‘The autonomy of affect’, in Deleuze: a Critical Reader, ed. P. Patton, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 217-239. 

Massumi, B. (2002) Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Pullen, A and Rhodes, C (2013) ‘Corporeal ethics and the politics of resistance in organizations’, Organization, (online first) doi:10.1177/1350508413484819 

Pullen, A, Rhodes, C and ten Bos, R (2013) ‘Special Issue Call for Papers – Ethics, Embodiment and Organization’, Organization

Sedgwick, E. K. (2003) Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press. 

Stearns, P.N. and Stearns, C.Z., (1985). 'Emotionology: Clarifying the history of emotions and emotional standards'. The American Historical Review, 90 (4):813-836. 

Tomkins, S. (1963) Affect, Imagery, Consciousness - Vol II: The Negative Affects. New York: Springer Publishing. 

Vachhani, S (2013) – ‘(Re)Creating Objects From the Past – Affect, Tactility and Everyday Creativity’, Management and Organizational History, 8(1): 91–104. 

Wright, C. and Nyberg, D., (2012). 'Working with passion: Emotionology, corporate environmentalism and climate change'. Human Relations, 65 (12):1561-1587. 


Papers may be submitted electronically from 31st January 2015 until the 28th February 2015 to SAGETrack at 

Papers should be no more than 8,000 words, excluding references, and will be blind reviewed following the journal’s standard review process. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines published in Organization and on the journal’s website:

For further information, please contact one of the Guest Editors: 

Marianna Fotaki (, Kate Kenny ( or Sheena Vachhani (