Writing Differently: Ad Hoc Newsletter (1)

Additional info: 
Editors/Organising team: Alison Pullen, Martin Parker, Mary Phillips, Nancy Harding, Sarah Gilmore

Writing Differently:Ad Hoc Newsletter (1)

Editors/Organising team: Alison Pullen, Martin Parker, Mary Phillips, Nancy Harding, Sarah Gilmore


Time for Seriously Different and Disruptive Writing

The first ‘Writing differently’ workshop was held at the University of Bradford in the spring of 2014, and the second at the University of Bristol in spring 2015. It was inspired by the coincidence of two papers being published within weeks of each other that argued the need to write from the body.  

The project has developed beyond the aspirations of those two papers: we want to break out of sterile academic modes of writing – to write better; write more productively; write from the body/embodied position; write with more truth; write with passion – and communicate our ideas better. In Nietzsche’s terms (in Genealogy of Morals), we want to escape that ‘will to nothingness’, whereby academics cling to an ‘ascetic ideal’ that hates the human, the animalistic, the material, the senses; it fears happiness and beauty, and longs to get away from ‘appearance, transience, growth, death, wishing, longing itself’. 

We have explored whether there is sufficient interest to pursue these ideas (there is), and how we can ‘write differently’ (we need inspiration and practice, and places in which to publish). 

This first, ad hoc newsletter looks back to the Bristol workshop (power-point presentations by Mary Phillips and Nancy Harding available from n.h.harding@bradford.ac.uk), and thoughts following the workshop (Alison Pullen), and a piece of ‘writing on demand’ below). But firstly we look forward to what is coming next, with a Call for Papers (of a sort).

Writing Differently and Getting Published: Next Steps

  1. Dialogues in Critical Management Studies (ed. Sarah Gilmore) is a hardback book comprising series of essays and papers, that is published every 18-24 months. The 2017/18 edition will focus on ‘Writing Differently’. We are not just ‘calling for papers’, but calling for participants who are interested in developing those papers at workshops, retreats and conferences in 2016 and 2017.
  2. We will run a stream on ‘Writing Differently’ at a major conference in the UK in 2016, and aim to organise the third ‘Writing Differently’ workshop combined with a writing retreat for the two days before the conference starts, at which authors can present,  discuss and work on their emerging ideas/experiments;
  3. We will organise further writing retreats to help ideas develop in a safe and productive space for writing differently;
  4. We will peer review each other’s works, learn from each other and encourage different ways of writing, culminating in seeing all these ideas on the pages of Dialogues, and, we hope special editions of relevant journals.

We are exploring other possibilities for workshops, special issues, etc. More to follow ….

If you’ve any ideas, thoughts, contributions, pieces for future ad hoc newsletters, samples of writing, or would like more information get in touch. (Nancy Harding – n.h.harding@bradford.ac.uk)

Dialogues in Critical Management Studies: a note from the editor

Sarah Gilmore (s.gilmore@port.ac.uk)

Dialogues in Critical Management Studies (DCMS) is a biennial publication that  explores issues that are of interest to the CMS community but also go beyond it.  Its new Series Editor, Sarah Gilmore, is keen to expand DCMS’s radical potential.  Because it has a book-format, it is possible to include works that don’t fit into the standard journal format.  Contributions may map out and explore new territory and ideas, or be controversial, quixotic, irrational or simply passionately felt. 

The 2017 issue of DCMS will be devoted to exploring writing differently. It will publish pieces from academics who wish to push forward the boundaries of academic writing, but whose work might not be publishable in a journal because it is, at the moment, too radical. How might writing differently be done? How might writing differently bring new insights to the personal, the local and to critiquing, understanding or (re)framing wider issues, debates and theorizing? What do we uncover and understand about management, organization, academia, feminism, queer theory – whatever subject you like – when we try to write in a freer, open-ended and generous way? 

Recent workshops on this issue have started exploring the rationales for and methods of writing differently. Workshops and writing retreats will continue this, and will bring together colleagues intent on developing work for possible inclusion in DCMS 2017.  But whilst the DCMS edition will draw on and be informed by these events, it does not preclude different work. Please get in touch if you would like to make a contribution…

Some reflections… un-edited

Alison Pullen (Alison.pullen@mq.edu.au)

Sydney, April 2015

It was great to be in Bristol again, this time for the Writing Differently workshop. The Bradford workshop had been largely theoretical exploring the implications of philosophical thought on writing in the field of Organization Studies. Given the people that this seminar brought together, feminist theorising dominated the presentations. The Bristol workshop was going to be different – an opportunity to write. I was suspect. I write in solitude, usually in an unwashed, pyjama comfy state (not that I want to confess that to strangers). I was preoccupied with what I could write in the seminar room.

The day started with Martin Parker who raised the institutional circumstances and pressures that we as academics face in the academy, and the restraints that some of us might face in terms of what the universities we work for require and the writing that we might want to do. In my case, an embodied form of writing which may be more playful, honest and engaging does not fare well in the world of the Research Excellence Framework, Excellence in Research Australia, and the recruitment of 4x4 academics. But this is further intensified by the marginalisation of gender and women researchers in a male dominated academy and the masculine, rational ideals of neo-liberal universities. 

Writing involves conflating my values through the action of writing. Writing is me. Martin Parker illustrated the writing self, revealing the politics of the personal – the politics of personal writing. This writing self is fraught by a concern that there are many readers that I do not want to see me in my un/masked state. 

Today is a cold autumn day in Sydney, and I am sat writing various things, all overdue, including these reflections. Again, unwashed – a relief from the face to face teaching that is dominating my in-semester job; the fake Australian made Ugg boots to keep me warm and the grey wool jumper over my PJs. My son will arrive home, and he will have thought that I haven’t been ‘at work’ today. But today, I have done more ‘writing’ than I have for a few days: a long review for Human Relations where I was purposefully trying not to disclose myself as an author; a lecture about embodied leadership which legitimated my ideas with theory; and student feedback.

[Interruption, son home from school and I need to play tennis.]

When I return back to these reflections the morning after, I have just completed my performance review. The issue of being held accountable to others strikes me clearly in the written text. The review surfaces the extent to which writing I is written out of multiple forms of writing performed by us all. But, if the personal is political we need to engage the self in all the activities that we do. The more accountable we become it seems that our multiple selves – mother, lover, manager, researcher, writer become absent. We become recycled and lost in our texts.

Isolating the subject position of writer from our multiple selves raises how we account for ‘me’, or more often than not discounting me, in our writing. In the workshop the issue of how we write multiple and fluid selves within the context of academic writing surfaced throughout Mary Phillip’s use of poetry as experimental and non-conformist writing and Nancy Harding’s discussion of fragmented and fluid selves through texts were reflected on. Experimental forms of writing has the potential of unmasking hidden dimensions of self, revealing the power structures at play and enliven emotion and passion in our work. As feminine/feminist forms of writing have become more present in organization journals (Fotaki et al (2014); Phillips et al (2014); and Höpfl, Pullen and Rhodes’ recent special issue of Gender, Work and Organization), the gendered, embodied nature of writing has become more accepted. However, the whiteness of our writing practices is an area for further thought engagement.

When Nancy Harding asked us to write in the workshop, the group in which I was a member discussed the ways in which when writing is edited and when writing is on a subject that is detached from the self, the self becomes disembodied from the text. People wrote about writing – it was thoughtful, it was driven by the mind and it was accounted for reflexively. However, writing about me – something that has affected us whether it was the relationship with a child or a reaction from an event at work, enables spontaneous, embodied writing which risks disclosure. Whether a general reader, a colleague, this writing exposes me especially in a context where our texts are re/edited by our colleagues. These reviewers, editors divorce our embodied selves from the texts we eventually produce. How can we as writers, editors and reviewers employ reflexivity convey affects? It also appeared that there is much difference between writing an argument, a story or narrative versus writing in the moment without pre-reflective intention. Much academic literature reveals little insight into the moments of the researchers’ life or the research experience. But if we are to take seriously writing as activism (see Vachhani, 2014) we need to think through the ways in which writing conveys multiple affectivities. Ann Rippin’s book making revealed the materiality of research practice. Overall, the workshop highlighted the tensions between writing multiple selves and the concreteness of the 'body'. The late Jan Schapper once said of ‘Dirty Writing’ (Pullen and Rhodes, 2007) that whilst the sterilisation of writing is questioned through embodied writing, that the able bodied-ness of academic text was felt. It seems that it is in the margins that much work can be done, yet care must be taken not to write for the reader. Perhaps, we have become over reviewed? Over edited? Over commodified? I have definitely become too polite at the fear of revealing self. 


Something written differently at the Bristol Workshop: Martin Parker

Demanded Writing

Martin Parker, m.parker@le.ac.uk


This little piece was produced, in a seminar room in Bristol in April 2015, after Nancy Harding had been talking about her enthusiasm for various authors who were trying to write with the body, with style and love and danger. Nancy called this ‘purple prose’, and enthused (with urgent gestures and much striding) about its power, when compared with the etiolated and mean product we academics are supposed to make our livings with most of the time. Adjectives. She wants more adjectives.

I have always wanted to be a writer, and even imagine that I might even be one, sometimes. But much of the time I end up watercolouring shadows of what I want to say, in order that my imagined audience of frowning judges is happy enough with what I have said. I wish I could write more purple. I wish I didn’t stop myself from writing that poem, that novel, from decorating my articles with bunting and leaving secret trap doors in unlikely places. Then she demanded that I (and thirty others) write for a half an hour or so, and (remembering someone who would wear a purple hat when they get old, and that we had been talking about the Pembrokeshire town of Tenby, at breakfast) this came out. Just this.

When I am old, I will write purple.

Purple, the colour of crushed ladybirds and dried blood, of UKIP and Prince’s rain, of my daughter’s bedroom and fingers stained after cutting beetroot. Purple as an unruly assembly of things, hanging in a mobile of commas and adjectives which shifts as the breeze catches it and rearranges the line of sight. Purple as a riotous celebration of thought, a see-saw pile of this and that, stapled and sellotaped together into a structure which barely stands.

So. A second hand bookshop in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. The scene of family holidays for decades, always prefigured by the quick recognition of a silhouette known by heart, pastel houses grandly surveying a beach, whiffs of chips and the sound of an amusement machine. Down some stone steps from the main square, past the shop that sells honey and scent made by monks from Caldey Island, and you will find a one room bookshop. The window is cluttered with postcards of old Tenby, and over the years the bookshop has collected so much stock it is barely possible to get inside. Ten years ago, perhaps, you could enter and follow a narrow path through shelves and piles into the heart of the place. The smell of old paper, and a vague sense of an attempt to keep order. Detectives, history, science fiction, transport, romance. Then, the old man who ran it seemed to know roughly what he had, and if asked, for a book on angels, or the circus, or cranes, could furrow his brows and then shamble off into the shadows, coming back with something vaguely relevant which I would feel I had to buy.

Five years ago, the corridors into the shop were becoming difficult to pass down. I was in there, and a woman was on the other side of a bookshelf from me. Every five minutes, one of us would reach for something and set off a little bookalanche, a slide of book scree that further disorganised the shelves, boxes and teetering piles that everywhere threatened to bury you in words. I didn’t stay long, because the disorder had become so great that it was no longer possible to find something I wanted. The detectives and the romances were interleaved, war and science were stacked on top of each other, and I could see philosophy and religion, but couldn’t get anywhere near it because Westerns were in the way.

Last year, I couldn’t even get in, and neither could the proprietor. Instead, he sat on a folding chair on the pavement, smiling solemnly at those who passed, and nodding at those who tried to go in. If you did enter, a revolving stand with novels was pretty much all that you could get to. The paths in and out had become blocked by new stacks and falls. You could see where they used to be, but navigation was simply too hazardous. I stood in the doorway, idly turning the stand of Penguins and Corgi and Mills and Boon. Beyond was chaos, a moonscape of paper. Any order that there had been was drowned, with towers and shelves teetering in the gloom, and the smell of browning mouldering books, covers torn, twisted by the sedimentary weight of the layers above. Inaccessible, except to thought and imagination. Useless as a bookshop.

I left, nodded at him with a faint smile, and felt angry that his lack of care had destroyed this lovely little place. I felt sad that his hoarding madness would probably mean that one year, I will come back and the shop will be empty, or an ice cream parlour, and the books will be landfill or recycled paper. Later, I told the story, just like I am telling it to you, freighted with purple, as if it meant something.


That’s how I wrote it, no editing. I badly want to edit it now, to reshape and revise, and let the thing grow into a more definite shape. Probably a shape in which the purple fades or disappears, and the bookshop fills the scene. I want the folds and sediments of the collapsing books to echo the twisted coastline of Pembrokeshire, where the rocks go vertical and break their spines, tumbling down onto inlets visited only by blank eyed seals. The bookshop owner might be blind, or might try to find a story that he remembers, or that a customer asks for.

I don’t know what else to do with it yet, but I do know that I wrote, when told to write for a while, and surrounded by the puzzled intensity of thirty other people scratching and clicking and clearing their throats. What else was there to do, but write? Writing isn’t something that requires possession, or a day of total silence. You don’t need the muse to exhale into your ear, or to wait until that deadline approaches like a Tsunami. You can just write, because someone tells you to, and everyone else in the room is being obedient too. And then things like this are made.

(Oddly, I’m in Tenby as I write this, with the seagulls screaming above my head. The bookshop is still open, and considerably tidier than last year. Perhaps it will last a little longer yet.)







A new paper that needs reading

Jenny Helin (2015) Writing  Process After Reading Bakhtin: From Theorized Plots to Unfinalizable “Living”  Events. Jo. Management Inquiry, 24:2, 174-185. 

This article focuses on the process of writing where the purpose is to explore how it is possible to write a research account that is inviting and “alive” so that, in reading, novelty unfolds. The account includes an illustration of how I struggled with writing and eventually found a way forward in reading Bakhtin’s work on the polyphonic novel. Inspiration from this genre opened up a kind of “listening writing”: an embodied and prospective form of writing that questions the traditional role of plot, because it calls for a letting go of predesigned structures. Instead, it suggests a writing driven by the interplay of voices, curiosity, and openness to the next possible word. The article contributes to the discussion on how writing matters and, in particular, how “unfinalizable” writing practices, in which the author tries not to be the final mediator of meaning, can enrich organization studies.