an addendum to highlight that the fabulous Art of Management & Organization Conference in Brighton, 2018, has extended its deadline on the call for streams to 24 June 2017.
9th Art of Management & Organization Conference 2018
Hosted by the University of Brighton Business Faculty, Brighton, East Sussex, UK
30th August – 2nd September 2018
‘Performance’ is one of the most deployed words in contemporary society, extending well beyond the workplace. Whilst it may be simply defined as “the accomplishment of a given task against preset known standards of accuracy and completeness” this barely scratches the surface of what it means to perform adequately in a world where conditions and competition vary; the “given” element of the task may in fact be emergent, or depend on emergent factors; and included in the expectations is the assumption that the boundaries of performance possibility will be pushed back. To perform means to exceed. High performance means risk. It is no longer good enough to be “only as good as your last performance” – now you are only as good as your next. Every aspect is monitored and measured, often by the person performing the task themselves, including intangible and invisible aspects. The spotlight is unremitting. Anxiety is normal; stress is a given. And if it all becomes too much, it is a problem of the individual to cope with, a question of their resilience and “wellness”. They are performers – they should train, develop physical and mental skills, manage their own personality and subjectivity, practice and rehearse, be ready to improvise at a moment’s notice, and if it isn’t “all right on the night” they will suffer sanctions.
But another take on performance views it as a social drama. The dramaturgical metaphor, drawn from the work of Kenneth Burke and Erving Goffman, and developed in organization studies by Iain Mangham and Michael Overington (1983,1987), is a familiar one in the workplace since the 1980s. Goffman drew attention to the importance of “impression management” in interactions, involving the framing of interaction, timing and sequencing, the utilization of ritual and pattern, and the management of meaning – the meaning of social interaction is staged. Social performance requires analytic, technical and interpretive skills, including the ability to work with others in an ensemble and with an audience (Beeman 2002). Several other writers have tried to make sense of organisational behaviour, leadership, team-work, discourse and relationships by drawing on the world of theatrical performance. But as Mangham and Overington (1983: 221) have pointed out, people are not mere performers but are actors who play characters, moving from character to character and audience to audience with a ‘theatrical consciousness’ which enables them to retain a concept of an acting self. Moving from one role to another and using it to take a perspective on the previous one is a form of reflexivity which can have a critical dimension in exposing the mystifications involved in playing and interpreting “roles” – and enabling demystification to occur. Hopfl and Linstead (1993) also examined the burdens that playing a role may place of the “self”, and the consequences of the failure of the “mask”.
The concept of social drama was developed by Victor Turner (1974, 1986), best known for his work on liminality, and picked up more recently by Dwight Conquergood (2013) in his concept of cultural performance which is applied to urban settings of deprivation and poverty as well as more traditional anthropological settings. Norman Denzin, too, takes anthropology into the heartlands of modern dispossession in his development of performance ethnography. These concepts have provided the warp and weft of the recently developed multidisciplinary field of performance studies crossing theatre, education, anthropology, sociology, and more recently still, performance philosophy. Organization studies has flirted with theorizing theatre practice itself (Jeffcutt et al 1996) and the work of Taylor (eg 2015, premiered at the 2014 Copenhagen Conference) provides an ongoing creative output that tackles organizational thinking in performance formats. There are also several examples in both literature and consultancy practice of the use of theatre and performance techniques on addressing organizational problem areas.
It would also be remiss for us not to remark on the emergence of the concept of performativity in the work of Lyotard (1985) and Butler (1990) which has addressed both the structural dynamics of performance and the consequences they have for identity – performance creating the actor, rather than the reverse. This has led to a more recent proposal of the controversial idea of critical performativity in organizations that is still hotly contested (Spicer et al 2009)
We wish to encourage participants to address such questions as
- if there is a significant level of ‘performing’ taking place in the workplace as people seek to live up to standards of accuracy and completeness what, then, does the notion of performance have to offer us in order to strengthen our understanding of what is happening?
- are there skills and strategies used in performance which may offer us solutions to the problems associated with, for example, status, vulnerability and lack of self revelation in the workplace?
- what other types of performance can give us a deeper insight into the darker or hidden sides of organisational life?
- what role do creative performances have in studying everyday performance?
The 2018 Art of Management and Organization conference invites you to use the word ‘performance’ as a catalyst for creative ways to explore and better understand the complexity of working life – including our need to ‘succeed’. Researchers, practitioners, consultants, artists, performers, educators and professionals are warmly invited to contribute to this dynamic event, where we will explore the confusion and ambiguities of the historical and contemporary workplace. We propose to encompass a diverse and inspired range of approaches falling under the general theme. For example:
- Theatre, including mime, monologue, improvisation etc
- Music, including singing, improvised music and all genres
- Art, including cartoons, graffiti etc
- Poetry, including rap, blank, rhyming, Haiku etc
- Dance, including traditional, modern and all genres
- Image, including photography, film, documentary and animation
- Narrative and storytelling
- Affect and emotion, theory and practice
This list is not exhaustive! Participants are encouraged to put their own interpretation on ‘Performance’ in the context of the art of management and organisation. Whilst we invite proposals for streams and panels of normal academic paper presentations (for which a separate call will be made when streams are determined) we also invite you, whatever the type of submission (streams, exhibitions, installations or performances) to be creative, and don’t be afraid to be bold!
Beeman, William O. (2002) Performance Theory in an Anthropology Program in Stuckey , Nathan and Wimmer, Cynthia, ed. Performance Studies as a Discipline. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press: 85-97
Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity London: Routledge
Conquergood, D. (2013) Cultural Struggles: Performance, Ethnography, Praxis Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Denzin, N. K. (2003) Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture London: Sage
Goffman, E. (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Höpfl, H. J. and S. A. Linstead (1993) “Passion and Performance: Suffering and the Carrying of Organizational Roles” in S. Fineman (ed.) Emotion and Organization London: Sage, pp 76 – 93.
Jeffcutt. P. S., Linstead, S. A. and Small Grafton R.[eds] (1996) Organisation and Theatre Special Issue of Studies in Cultures, Organisation and Societies. 2(1)
Lyotard, J-F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. G. Bennington and B. Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Mangham, I.L. and Overington, M. (1983) ‘Dramatism and the theatrical metaphor’,in G. Morgan, (ed.), Beyond Method London: Sage. pp. 219-33.
Mangham, I.L. and Overington, M. (1987) Organizations as Theatre:A Sociology of Dramatic Appearances Chichester: Wiley
Spicer, A., Alvesson, M. and Kärreman, D. (2009) ‘Critical Performativity: The Unfinished Business of Critical Management Studies’, Human Relations, 62(4): 537-560.
Taylor, S. (2015) Through the Reading Glasses Organizational Aesthetics 4, 1:70-85
Turner, V. (1986) The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ
Turner, V. (1974) Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors Ithaca: Cornell UP
For more information/stream submission please contact firstname.lastname@example.org