A discourse-based toolbox to narrative analysis of multimodal organizational representations of sustainability

Ann Starbæk Bager, Anders Horsbøl, Søren Frimann

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    Narrative analysis represents a broad and diverse field of study across a variety of research disciplines such as literature, culture, media, organization, psychology and discourse. The paper at hand explores a discourse-based approach to the study of narrative multimodal representations of sustainability in organizational settings. It taps into the contemporary turn toward process studies (Langley & Tsoukas, 2017; Helin et al., 2014) and multimodality within narrative studies (Rantaki & Vaara, 2017) as well as counter-narrative studies (Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 2020). This turn toward processuality involves that we study dynamics between a variety of narrative resources on several levels in relation to organizational contexts. We further perceive of organizational narrative processes as complex, multimodal, plurivocal, contradictory and ambiguous phenomenon. In recent texts scholars point toward a range of methodological challenges within the broad field of (counter-)narrative studies involving matters of analytical and conceptual imprecisions and vagueness (e.g. Bamberg & Wipff, 2020). We link up to an increasing number of narrative scholars that draw on discourse studies to deal with such imprecisions and for its analytical as well as methodological rigor (Holmgren & Strunck, 2020; Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 2020). The growing inspiration from discourse studies comes as no surprise as it has close affinities to recent (counter-)narrative studies. First of all, 1) both (counter-)narrative and discourse studies are interested in critically inquiring into how certain knowledge forms and systems gain dominance over others in certain times and contexts together with its implications (Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 2020). Secondly, 2) discourse studies are aligned with studying process (Heracleous, 2017, Langley & Tsoukas, 2017; Helin et al., 2014). Thirdly, 3) discourse is foregrounded as representing a potent contextualization for the analysis of narratives and counter-narratives (Keller, 2020). Fourthly, 4) discourse studies (Horsbøl & Raudaskoski, 2016; Alvesson & Kärremann, 2000, 2011) and recent counter-narrative studies (Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 2020) invite us to study narrative and discursive representations and its entanglements on several levels. Some of the critics of (counter-)narrative studies spotlight that narratives are often discussed without proper documentation and analysis. Furthermore, scholars point to imprecise and sporadic use of analytical concepts in (counter)narrative analyses (Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 2020). In the paper we explore the potential of forming a discourse-based toolbox for the study of narrative multimodal representations in organizational contexts. Among other things we will draw on insights and concepts from discursive positioning theory (Van Langenhove & Harré, 1999; Bamberg & Wipff, 2020), critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2005; Kress & Van Leuwen, 2001; Hodge & Kress 1988; Machin, 2016) and other multimodal oriented approaches, such as Iedema’s (2003) take on organizational re-semiotization processes. As part of unfolding the discourse-based toolbox for narrative analysis we will discuss its potentials and relevance for adding precision in analyses of organizational narrative representations and processes. We draw on empirical data from diverse organizational contexts reflecting organizational narratives of sustainability. References: Alvesson, M., & Karreman, D. (2000). Varieties of discourse: On the study of organizations through discourse analysis. Human relations, 53(9), 1125-1149. Alvesson, M., & Kärreman, D. (2011). Decolonializing discourse: Critical reflections on organizational discourse analysis. Human relations, 64(9), 1121-1146. Bager, A. S., Lueg, K., & Lundholt, M. (2020). Concluding remarks and future research avenues. In K. Lueg & M. Lundholt (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of counter-narratives. Routledge, forthcoming. Bamberg, M. & Wipff, Z. (2020). Re-considering counter-narratives. In K. Lueg & M. Lundholt (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of counter-narratives. Routledge, forthcoming. Helin, J., Hernes, T., Hjorth, D., & Holt, R. (2014) The Oxford handbook of process philosophy and organization studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Heracleous, L. (2017). Discourse theory. The SAGE handbook of process organization studies (pp. 190-203). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications. Hodge, R. & G. Kress (1988) Social Semiotics. Cambridge: Polity Press. Langley, A., & Tsoukas, H. (2017). Introduction: Process thinking, process theorizing and process researching. In: Langley, A. & Tsoukas, H. (eds.) The SAGE handbook of process organizational studies, pp. 1-26. Van Langenhove, L., & Harré, R. (1999). Introducing positioning theory. Positioning theory: Moral contexts of intentional action, 14-31. Holmgren, L. & Strunck, J. (2020). Narratives of recruitment. Constructions of policy, practice and organizational identity in a Danish bank. In K. Lueg & M. Lundholt (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of counter-narratives. Routledge, forthcoming. Horsbøl, A., & Raudaskoski, P. (2016). Diskurs og praksis: Teori, metode og analyse. (Eng: Discourse and Practice: Theory, method and analysis). Forlag Samfundslitteratur. Iedema, R. (2003). Multimodality, resemiotization: Extending the analysis of discourse as multi-semiotic practice. Visual communication, 2(1), 29-57. Keller, R. (2020). Narrative, discourse, and sociology of knowledge. Applying the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse (SKAD) for analyzing (counter-)narratives. In K. Lueg & M. Lundholt (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of counter-narratives. Routledge, forthcoming. Kress, G. T. & van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. Arnold. Machin, D. (2016). The need for a social and affordance-driven multimodal critical discourse studies. Discourse & Society, 27(3), 322-334. Rantakari, A., & Vaara, E. (2017). Narratives and processuality. In A. Langley & H. Tsoukas (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of process organizational studies (pp. 271–285). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
    Original languageDanish
    Publication date20. Mar 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 20. Mar 2020
    Event2nd Storytelling Seminar: "The Role of Narratives and Storytelling in Organizing for Sustainability: Perspectives in Dialogue" - University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
    Duration: 27. May 202029. May 2020


    Conference2nd Storytelling Seminar: "The Role of Narratives and Storytelling in Organizing for Sustainability: Perspectives in Dialogue"
    LocationUniversity of Southern Denmark
    Internet address

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