Trapped in limbo: Academics’ identity negotiation in conditions of perpetual liminality

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Abstrakt

Purpose: This paper aims to investigate the experiences of permanent liminality of academics and the associated multidimensional processes of identity negotiation. Design/methodology/approach: The article draws upon a three-and-a-half-year at-home ethnography. The first author – as insider, participant and researcher – investigated the consequences of an organizational redesign that pushed members of a local university department into a situation of permanent liminality. Findings: The paper describes how academics simultaneously followed multiple trajectories in their identity negotiation as a response to ongoing experiences of ambiguity, disorientation, powerlessness and loss of status. Practical implications: Management decisions in higher education institutions based on administrative concerns can have adverse effects for academics, particularly when such decisions disturb, complicate or even render impossible identification processes. University managers need to realize and to respond to the struggle of academics getting lost in an endless quest for defining who they are. Originality/value: The paper highlights the dual character of identity negotiation in conditions of permanent liminality as unresolved identity work through simultaneous identification and dis-identification. It further shows the multidimensionality of this identity work and argues that identity negotiation as a response to perpetual liminality is informed by notions of struggle and notions of opportunity.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Vol/bind16
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)332-349
ISSN1746-5648
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2021

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