Inclusive storytelling is a research praxis. “Sociological praxis seeks to identify dominant narratives and to change them in a practical, useful way” (Rosile, Boje, Carlon, Downs & Saylors, 2013: 562). In this mode of inquiry, “the researcher problematizes dominant ideology threads of the storytelling” using Marxist, Critical Theory, & Postructuralism to deconstruct the monologic tendencies in change/development models. The goal of inclusive storytelling is ethno-theoretical, specifically to find the qualitative basis of theoretical knowledge that upholds systems of exclusion and inequity. Given the epistemological and axiological commitments of many organizational scholars, organizational scholars have an opportunity to overcome the elitist ways of being when encountering the lived experiences of those who experience the everyday suffering of exclusion and inequity – inclusive storytelling helps avoid alienating lived experiences by breaking through abstract categories.
With this sub-theme, we want to encourage research that denies the legitimacy of organizational theorizing when it treats inclusivity and equity as abstract sociological categories rather than lived experiences. The aim is to develop the necessary theoretical and empirical groundwork around the lived experiences of those who suffer from being excluded and inequitably treated to enable truly inclusive organizational theorizing. Here we align with discourse scholars that zoom-in-and-out between diverse organizational discursive layers starting from the practice and small discursive level and from there zoom out and put the local research findings into perspective according to broader organizational and societal Discourses (Bager, 2016; Bager & Mølholm, 2019; Bager, Lueg & Lndholt, 2020; Grant & Iedema, 2005; Nicolini, 2009, 2016). We call for work that challenges organizationally crystallized ways of saying and doing things and reveals the socio material and political practices that such activities are embedded in (cp. discourse activism, Bager & Mølholm, 2019, Bager & McClellan (work in progress) and reflexivity in action; Cunliffe, 2003; Cunliffe & Coupland, 2011; and Butler’s reflexive undoing). This works together with a reclamation of practices in theorizing on organizational matters (Bager, 2016; Nicolini, 2009). Another important element of inclusion is a post-humanist understanding of exclusion and inequity. Taking the planet itself as valuable in and of itself and taking extinction level events as the tragic death of a billion-year evolutionary line, we see that inclusion must include more than human interest. Specifically, recent historical research (McLaren, Mills & Weatherbee, 2015) has sought a praxis future that moves beyond humanistic history (Boje & Saylors, 2015: 203).
We aim to encourage research on inclusive storytelling that includes researchers themselves as part of the rebellion against powers that are driving global society through poverty, pestilence, and the plundering of our futures. Initially, “storytelling” was used in a narrow way to explore the ways people engage in narrative-telling within organizations (Gabriel, 2000). More recent research has proffered storytelling theory as an embodied, emotional, elaboration of the cognitivist perspective that communication is constitutive of organizations (Bager. 2019; Lundholt & Boje, 2018). Thus, inclusive storytelling can be enabled by studies of inclusivity in sensemaking (Weick, 2012), enchantment (Ganzin, Suddaby & Minkus, 2019), power and subjectivity (Jørgensen, 2017), history-telling (Boje, Haley & Saylors, 2016; Suddaby, Coraiola, Harvey & Foster, 2019), dialogic practices and discursive openings (Bager & McClellan, work in progress) and through participatory reflexive and change-oriented work with organizational narrative-small-story dynamics (Bager & Lundholdt, 2020). Seen from such perspectives inclusive storytelling reaches beyond western narratives and can include colonially excluded voices which proffer indigenous ways of knowing (Banerjee & Tedmanson, 2010; Banerjee & Linstead, 2004; Cajete, 2015; Hoskins & Jones, 2017; Pepion, 2016; Rosile, 2016; Twotrees & Kolan, 2016).
This sub-theme, invites approaches that address the ‘smallness’ and the more informal dimensions of organizational storytelling practices such as small stories (Bager, 2016; Bamberg, 1997, 2006; Bamberg & Georgakopoulou,, 2008), counter-narratives (Bager, Lueg & Lundholt, 202; Bamberg & Andrews, 2004, Boje et al, 2016; Frandsen, Kuhn, & Lundholt, 2016; Lueg, Bager & Lundholt, 2020) ante-narratives (Boje, 2011; Boje et al, 2016; Svane, 2020), dialectical Storytelling (Boje, 2016a, 2016b), performative storytelling (Arendt, 2013; Butler, 2015; Jørgensen 2017), true storytelling (Larsen, Brunn, & Boje, in press), organizational narrative-small—story dynamics (Bager & Lundholdt, 2020) and the like. To date the role of inclusive storytelling and its links to challenges of inclusivity and equity are not well understood, both in theoretical and empirical terms, nor are there any ready-made solutions for facilitating inclusive storytelling that fosters inclusion and equity advancing research. Thus, we call for studies that help break through the “interesting” and “conversation” barriers to work that addresses super wicked problems faced by the impoverished, the marginalized, and those who suffer most both from climate-change and from climate change initiatives.
We invite conceptual and empirical submissions drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives and diverse methodologies. The following topic areas highlight exemplary questions and research themes:
• Theory development: What theories presently disable inclusion and equity; what stories and underlying assumptions are these researchers enacting? What new stories could explain the same findings, but do so in a way that no longer excuses exclusion or crates inequality? What are the drivers, outcomes and boundary conditions of inclusive storytelling from different ontological, epistemological and sociology-of-science perspectives?
• Empirical research: How can we help uncover the silencing of inclusive stories in organizations and its impact on inclusivity and equality? What are the conditions that contribute to the half-measures of inclusivity that act to exclude, like the UNs “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation”?
• Including responsibility for colonialization: How can we achieve full indigenous sovereignty and complete recognition of the right to self-determination? How can organizational theory be re-told with inclusive storytelling to lead governments to protect native land, water, food, health care, social issues, housing, etc?
• Incorporating recent societal developments: How can militaries across the world be de-funded? What can be done to offset the traditional use of the military to employ “surplus people” and instead include these traumatized state-owned wage-slaves in a post-military society?
• New forms of telling inclusive stories: Under what conditions can new forms of inclusive storytelling emerge? How can inclusive storytelling contribute to solving sustainable development challenges? How can existing inclusive storytelling practices be improved to better enable actual change?
• Meta-reflexivity and ethics of storytelling research: How can storytelling scholars work reflexively and ethically with their own underlying assumptions and methods? Which stories or voices do we as storytelling scholars enable and which might we be disabling and excluding? What are the horizons of overcoming exclusion and inequality? How do we give voice to those we seek to emancipate from the neoliberal, capitalistic and growth-oriented ideologies? How do we avoid the pitfall of the emancipatory paradox (Bager & Mølholm, in press; Clegg et. Al, 2006) – pushing our ideals of emancipation on to research participants to achieve own interests? Which new discursive hegemonies do we risk to foster and how can we deal with such in a reflexive and ethical manner?
Short Description of the Convenor Team
David M. Boje Ph.D, is a Professor at Aalborg's Business College. David was Editor of the Journal of Organizational Change Management for 14 years, and founder and editor of Tamara: Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry for 10 years. He has published more than 400 peer reviewed journal articles and chapters, is most well-known for his work in Organization Studies, Human Relations, Academy of Management Journal, and Administrative Science Quarterly. He is the most well cited scholar in Storytelling; is famous for distinguishing between storytelling and narrative; and created the field of antenarrative research in his 2001 narrative methods book. David M. Boje was the lead of a 3 person convener team for the EGOS 2020 track "Sub-theme 52: Storytelling a Sustainable Future " and has presented at numerous EGOS Colloquium.
Ann Starbæk Bager PhD, is an associate professor, University of Southern Denmark, Design and Communication. She is Head of the Center for Narratological Studies (CNS) and one of the organizers of an annual international storytelling conference. Ann’s research is on organizational narrative studies in a discursive and practice-based perspective. She is part of defining the field of organizational discourse ad storytelling activism. She is currently publishing on matters of storytelling, power, multimodality and ethics in relation to organizational/leadership communication. She has recently published at Routledge, John Benjamins, Palgrave, Communication and Language at Work, Tamara: Journal of Critical Organization Inquiry and Journal of Philosophy of management.
Rohny Saylors Ph.D, is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Carson College of Business at Washington State University. His research is focused on entrepreneurial storytelling processes and methods. His passion is the advancement of human creativity, hope, and authentic compassion through, and within, organizational scholarship. Dr. Saylors has published in Organizational Research Methods, Tamara: Journal of Critical Organization Inquiry, and Human Relations. He is most well-known for arguing that entrepreneurship is storytelling. Rohny Saylors has participated in two prior EGOS Colloquium.
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