Writing: That which touches

Last updated, 10 Sep 2015
Additional info: 
GWO2016 Call for Abstracts + 2-day writing retreat
Keele University, UK
27/06/2016 to 01/07/2016


Sarah Gilmore, University of Portsmouth, ENGLAND

Nancy Harding, Bradford University, ENGLAND

Martin Parker, University of Leicester, ENGLAND

Mary Phillips, University of Bristol, ENGLAND

Alison Pullen, Macquarie University, AUSTRALIA


Writing communicates the immaterial and the material. Over two decades, management and organization studies scholars have playfully engaged with forms of writing that are alternative to the scientific norm (Czarniawska-Joerges, 1995), and some have called for writing differently as a way to communicate less abstractly (Grey and Sinclair, 2006). Academics have written experimentally encompassing mediums of representation that reach beyond the often stultifying norms inculcated by social science and reinforced by the requirements of (many) academic journals (Parker, 2014). These include poetry (Kostera, 1997), textiles (Rippin, 2013) and biography (Rhodes, 2001). These advancements could also be read as challenging masculine writing, some being explicit in offering feminine/feminist writing.


Issues surrounding the voice and material presence of the author have been discussed, especially by those writing autobiographically (Höpfl, 2007). Writing self or as a social practice representative of subjectivity becomes important (Pullen, 2006). The presence of the writer’s physical body remains speculative, yet there are writers who write of their bodies and the body has the potential to become a site of power and change, albeit a contested space. Other writings speak of writing from the body (e.g. Pullen and Rhodes, 2008). Some writers equate embodied writing as a feminine alternative to the disembodied masculine (Höpfl, 2000; Fotaki et al., 2015; Phillips et al., 2014; see also special issue on Feminine Writing in Gender, Work and Organization, 2015). And, the extent to which embodied writing reveals or conceals self fluctuates. Writing, like dancing, allows the body ‘to articulate itself as a complex site of passionate objection’ (Sweeney, 2015, p. 30) enabling the presence of materiality and naming its absences (Irigaray, 1985). Critiquing of Western hierarchization of the senses, for Irigaray (1985) without touch there is no seeing. That is, the sensory body becomes recast as the primary location of the political (Sweeney, 2015) and ethical (Bray and Colebrook, 1998). These are writings that recognize the importance of historical and embodied contexts. Management and organization studies scholars’, often guided by feminist writing from other disciplines, are exploring how sensory writing captures and conveys affect; and it touches through the flesh. This writing is incomplete. It is vulnerable. Often grammar fails us. Experimental writing carries passion and desire through replacing authorial primacy with relationships between writer and reader that are fluid, dynamic and unconstrained. Writing has the potential to develop relationships between bodies. 


This stream will build on emergent work in management and organization studies to develop new ways of writing that oppose masculine scientific writing, opening the discipline to ways of better understanding ways of being and doing in/of organizations. That is, it will explore alternative forms of gendered writing. There are rich precedents in feminist studies for ways of writing differently from which we could draw inspiration. Philosopher-poet Denise Riley (2005) uses language that drips with metaphor and draws in its readers so we feel the meaning of what she is saying viscerally, so that our bodies understand it even though our minds may not. Annette Kuhn (2002) uses her family photograph album to develop a history of the second half of the 20th century, analyzing the writing ‘I’ reflecting on the ‘I’ in the photographs. The writing ‘I’ is caught in its immanence, debating with a younger ‘I’ and weaving together affect, embodiment, memory and poetry. Kathleen Stewart’s (2007) ‘Ordinary Affects’ breaks with anthropological tradition to write in short, seemingly disconnected passages of pure, rich description in which the academic self disappears into the quotidian it studies, allowing a rich analysis of contemporary American life to emerge.   In Katherine Angel’s ‘Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell’ (2014), the pornographic novel meets the philosophical text and offers an intensely personal, embodied theory of women’s unthought subordination. These writings name the sensuous. 


Writing that touches shifts the centrality of the ocular to the skin. We ask what value is there in writing that doesn’t touch? We suggest that embodied writing creates the space for affirmative politics (Braidotti, 2011), and ethical encounters on the basis of difference. This is a gendered writing that challenges binary dualisms through radical identity politics. Perhaps it enables us to move from asking ‘who is speaking’ to ‘what affect can writing that touches achieve?’ This stream therefore welcomes contributions that question: how do we write from/about the sensory body?  What form of writing could transform academia? How can minority voices surface through embodied or sensory writing? Stylistically, in what ways can our writing be inventive, creative and passionate? How can writing effect ethical and political change? Can writing be activism? What can we develop by working across disciplines, such as writing differently from feminist, queer and gender theorists working outside of management and organization studies? We also very much encourage stream participants to submit their own experiments with writing that touches.


Abstracts of approximately 500 words (ONE page, Word document NOT PDF, single spaced, excluding references, no header, footers or track changes) are invited by 1st November 2015 with decisions on acceptance to be made by stream leaders within one month. All abstracts will be peer reviewed. New and young scholars with 'work in progress' papers are welcomed. In the case of co-authored papers, ONE person should be identified as the corresponding author. Note that due to restrictions of space, multiple submissions by the same author will not be timetabled. In the first instance, abstracts and queries should be emailed to Nancy Harding: n.h.harding@bradford.ac.uk Abstracts should include FULL contact details, including your name, department, institutional affiliation, mailing address, and e-mail address. State the title of the stream to which you are submitting your abstract. Note that no funding, fee waiver, travel or other bursaries are offered for attendance at GWO2016.


In addition, we are organising a two-day writing retreat on the theme of writing differently from the 27th-29th June 2016 just prior to the GWO conference. It will be held at The Upper House Hotel in Barlaston, Stoke on Trent https://www.theupperhouse.com/ It is a short distance from the GWO venue at Keele and we will attempt to provide transport for those who would like to attend the GWO conference on the 29th. The retreat will cost £250 per person for the event and this sum includes full board. Expressions of interest should be sent to Sarah Gilmore: sarah.gilmore@port.ac.uk but a fuller call with more information will be circulated soon. 



Angel, K. (2014). Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell. London: Penguin/Allen Lane.

Bray, A., and Colebrook, C. (1998) The haunted flesh: Corporeal feminism and the politics of (dis) embodiment. Signs, 24:1, 35-67.

Braidotti, R. (2011). Nomadic Theory: The Portable Rosi Braidotti. New York: Columbia University Press.

Czarniawska-Joerges, B. (1995). Narration or science? Collapsing the division in organization studies. Organization, 2:1, 11-33.

Fotaki, M., Metcalfe, B. and Harding, N. (2014). Writing materiality into management and organization studies through and with Luce Irigaray. Human Relations, 67:10, 1239-1263.

Grey, C. and Sinclair, A. (2006). Writing differently. Organization, 13:3, 443-453.

Höpfl, H. (2000). The suffering mother and the miserable son: Organizing women and organizing women’s writing. Gender, Work and Organization, 7:2, 98-105.

Höpfl, H. (2007). The codex, the codicil and the codpiece: Some thoughts on diminution and elaboration in identity formation. Gender, Work and Organization, 14:6, 619-632.

Irigaray, L. (1985). Speculum of the Other Woman, trans. Gillian C. Gill, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Kuhn, A. (2002). Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination. London: Verso.

Kostera, M. (1997). Personal performatives: Collecting poetical definitions of management. Organization, 4:3, 345-353.

Parker, M (2014). Writing: What can be said, by who, and where? In Jeanes, E and Huzzard, T (eds) Critical Management Research: Reflections from the Field. London: Sage, 211-226.

Phillips, M., Pullen, A., and Rhodes, C. (2014). Writing organization as gendered practice: Interrupting the libidinal economy. Organization Studies, 35:3, 313-333.

Pullen, A. (2006). Gendering the research self: social practice and corporeal multiplicity in the writing of organizational research. Gender, Work and Organization, 13:3, 277-298.

Pullen, A. and Rhodes, C. (2008). Dirty writing. Culture and Organization, 14:3, 241-259.

Rhodes, C. (2001). Writing organization: (Re) presentation and control in narratives at work (Vol. 7). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamin Publishing.

Riley, D. (2005). Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect. London: Duke University Press.

Rippin, A. (2013). Putting The Body Shop in its place: A studio-based investigation into the new sites and sights of organisation as experience. Organization Studies, 34:10, 1551-1562.

Stewart, K. (2007). Ordinary Affects. London: Duke University Press.

Sweeney, F. (2015) ‘Beautiful, radiant things’: Aesthetics, experience and feminist practice. A response to Kathy Davis. Feminist Theory, 16:1, 27-30.