Anatomising Embodiment and Organisation Theory


Anatomising Embodiment and Organisation Theory explores the relationship between the human body and the development of social theory about organisations and organising. The human body has become a key issue in the social sciences and humanities over the last two decades, yet organisation studies has been extremely slow to recognise the significance of issues of embodiment to the relationship between people and organisations. Karen Dale argues here that, although the body is rarely considered explicitly, organisation studies is riddled with implicit assumptions about the nature of the body which have critically shaped its course.

Central questions such as what definition of `organisation' is used and what research is legitimated as part of the field are seen as having been shaped by historically dominant conceptions of the body. This pre-eminent model is governed by anatomy and dissection, wherein the body is objectified, denatured and split into its component parts. It is within this perspective, which relies on the analysis of structure and function from fixed, anatomised segments, that the ongoing interplay between `organ' and `organisation' can be discerned and which works itself out across organisation studies as a form of `objectified disembodiment'.

The two key symbols are the scalpel and the mirror. The scalpel is the central tool for the fragmentation of the body, but the mirror also plays a major part in the way that this invasive knowledge is reorganised as it comes to form an important element in conceptions of self-hood and embodied experience.

Bringing together insights from Foucault and Merleau-Ponty, Karen Dale develops a position of `embodied subjectivity' by critiquing the approach of `objectified disembodiment' where the processes of division are centred on both the creation of the dominant and the marginalisation of that which is different. She suggests that social processes of reproduction are conflated with mechanical reproduction - the production of the same - as in mass production, leading to a discipline where there are many marginalised bodies and identities, including gender, ethnicity and disability.
  • Palgrave Macmillan; November 2000
  • ISBN 9780333993828
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Anatomising Embodiment and Organisation Theory
  • Author: Karen Dale
  • Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan

In The Press

'Anatomising Embodiment and Organization Theory is an intriguing, deft and provocative overview of the emergence, embeddedness, and forgetfulness of organization studies in its interdependence with and constitution of a world premised on what the author terms an anatomising and ocular impulse towards the organic, and other, base metaphors of the field. The book questions the many binary divides, from Cartesian rationalism through to contemporary aesthetics of organization form and structure, that traverse and shape this field. It balances past normative masculine theorization of the field with a strongly argued feminization; it makes apparent implicit and covert social theories that appear as if they were asocial and, for those who take social theory seriously, it offers serious engagement.' - Stewart Clegg, Professor, School of Management, University of Technology, Sydney

'A well-researched, stimulating and provocative book that considers the 'anatomising urge' that characterises modern knowledge, of which organisational studies is a part. The author considers the production of knowledge that generates organisation theory and its foundations in dissection and fragmentation; privileging and hierarchy; and the implications this has for practices of exclusion. By illustrating the politics of claiming disciplinary boundaries, and challenging this by drawing from material more readily associated with medical sociology, anthropology, biology, and the sociology of the body, the book destabilises conventional understandings of an area of study and is very welcome for this. Given the author's argument, any review must eschew the usual accolades of 'insightful', and 'going beneath the surface of' the subject, I hope, however, that this book will prompt a new body of research in a similar vein!' - Barbara Townley, Chair of Management and Organization Department of Business Studies and Management School, University of Edinburgh

About The Author

KAREN DALE is Lecturer in Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Warwick. She has previously worked in the NHS and Local Government.