Is this really the most pressing thing?

Published by Tony Quinlan on

I think it’s always fairly obvious that I like a balance between intelligent, well-thought-through approaches and ideas and practical applications of ideas. I get frustrated by unfounded processes and theories, but probably more so by theoretical approaches that verge on navel-gazing and that actively resist pragmatic usage.

With that in mind, I’m resisting the temptation to voice all that’s in my mind about the latest in the series of academic Organisational Storytelling Seminars, coming up in May. Previous ones have been heavy on sociologists divining much abstract information from very little actual material, but there’s always a good smattering of interesting thinkers with their feet firmly on the ground and eager to debate. I suspect this one may be an exception:

16th Organisational Storytelling Seminar: Stories we do not tell in organisations: gender, sexuality, heteronormativity and otherness

Organisation studies currently takes it for granted that organisations require their employees to act in ways deemed appropriate for their sex. As Jessica Benjamin argues, organisations, being hierarchical structures, are inescapably places in which (sexed) relationships of domination and submission are played out (Benjamin, 1988; 1995). She suggests that all encounters with others bring with them the potential for relationships of domination and subordination, and such relationships are fundamental to workplace encounters. Whilst feminism and queer theory explore how sex, sexualities and gender identities are achieved in their social, cultural and linguistic dimensions, the explorations of symbolic and imaginary accounts of gendering have had little influence upon organisation studies. Although sexuality is constantly enacted in organisations, it is rarely spoken about except in gossip and allusions. As a result, ‘sexual difference which is one of the most important questions of our age, if not in fact the burning issue… which could be our salvation on intellectual level’, in Luce Irigaray’s (1993) words, becomes an elephant in the room and a pseudo-normalised reality.

In this seminar we would hope to break through some of these silences by exploring stories on sex and sexuality, gender and otherness in organisations, stories located within and beyond compulsory matrices: heterosexual or otherwise. In doing so we will open up a space for creating new symbols, enabling rather then restricting various avenues and possibilities for expressions of sex, sexuality and gender.