Critical diversity studies emerged in the mid-1990s as a reaction to the re-appropriation of equal opportunities by business through the notion of diversity. They initially took issue with the dominant rhetoric of diversity as a positive, empowering approach valorizing employees' different capacities (e.g. R. Thomas, 1992), arguing that the theoretical shift to diversity would obscure unequal power relations in organizations, e.g. gender, race/ ethnicity, (dis)ability, hampering the ability to challenge them (i.e. Bond
This article analyses texts on diversity produced in 25 interviews with Flemish human resource (HR) managers from a critical discourse analysis and rhetorical perspective. Following critical discourse analysis, we analyse how HR managers define diversity, how their diversity discourses reflect existing managerial practices and underlying power relations, and how they reaffirm or challenge those managerial practices and power relations. Specifically, we examine how power enters HR managers’ local discourses of diversity through the very micro-dynamics of language by analysing the rhetorical schemes they use and the grand Discourses they draw from. This critical, text-focused approach to diversity discourses contributes to the development of a non-essentialist reconceptualization of diversity that acknowledges power.
This study analyses how minority employees engage with control in organizations. Differently from most critical studies of diversity management, which focus on how minority employees are discursively controlled, we approach (diversity) management as a constellation of both identity-regulating discourses and bureaucratic controls. We assume that minority employees are agents who actively resist and/or comply with the constellation of controls they are subject to. Based on qualitative data collected in a technical drawing company and a hospital, the specific constellation of controls in each organization is first reconstructed. Four interviews with minority employees are then analysed in depth, showing how their engagement with material and discursive controls creates both constraints and possibilities of micro-emancipation.
Contrary to current definitions of diversity as a set of a priori sociodemographic characteristics, this study re-conceptualizes diversity as an organizational product. Through the analysis of qualitative data from four service organizations, we show that organization-specific understandings of diversity are based on the way employees' sociodemographic differences affect the organization of work, either contributing to it or hampering it. Such understandings of diversity, in turn, shape organization-specific approaches to diversity management. From our empirical results, we further inductively derive two dimensions of service processes that appear to play a central role in shaping diversity (management) in service organizations: customers' proximity versus invisibility and diversity-customized versus profession-customized service. We conclude the article on a more critical note, reflecting on how specific constellations of work/understanding of diversity/diversity management enable and/or constrain employees' agency, including the possibility to challenge existing power relations.
K E Y WO R D S customers diversity diversity management power servicesDiversity studies generally define diversity by referring to one or more employees' socio-demographic traits such as gender, race, ethnicity and age, and subsequently examine the effects of these differences on a variety of
This article explores how disabled workers engage with the ableist discourse of disability as lower productivity in constructing positive identities in the workplace. Disabled employees inhabit a contradictory discursive position: as disabled individuals, they are discursively constructed for what they are unable to do, whereas as employees they are constituted as human resources and expected to be able to produce and create value. Our discourse analysis of 30 in-depth interviews with disabled employees identifies three types of discursive practices through which they construct positive workplace identities: (1) practices contesting the discourse of lower productivity as commonly defined; (2) practices contesting the discourse of lower productivity by redefining productivity; and (3) practices reaffirming the discourse of lower productivity yet refusing individual responsibility for it. The study advances the disability literature by highlighting how disabled speakers sustain positive workplace identities despite the negative institutionalized expectations of lower productivity both by challenging and reproducing ableism as an organizing principle.
This study advances a critical re-conceptualization of ‘diversity’ through class. Drawing on the case of CarCo, the Belgian branch of a North American automobile company, I show how the discursive constructions of various socio-demographic identities reflect underlying class relations between labour and capital and are, in turn, implicated in their reproduction. Reflecting the instrumental conceptualization of labour as the source of economic value in the capitalist mode of production, female, older and disabled workers were discursively constructed as unable or unwilling to perform as expected within the factory lean production system. These negative identities in turn legitimized the elimination of ‘different’ workers in the company restructuring and the outsourcing of the phases of the production process that could be carried out by them, materially reproducing class relations. The analysis unveils the ‘dark’ business case against diversity at CarCo, a company which was renowned as a ‘best’ case for diversity in Belgium. I argue that the re-conceptualization of diversity through class offers a powerful analytical tool to better understand how unequal power relations are played out in contemporary organizations.
While most studies on female expatriates take a structural approach, this study considers female expatriates as active agents, capable of producing effective professional identities when interacting with men. We propose that female expatriates are agents who selectively interpret interactions with male actors and actively position themselves within these interactions. Within these two processes of interpreting and positioning, we examine how they draw from gender, hierarchy and culture as three power-laden identity discourses that not only constrain but also enable their actions. Through the analysis of in-depth interviews with successful female expatriates, we show how these women counter their (perceived) lower status along one identity discourse by strategically positioning themselves through a more empowering identity. #
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