Metaphors of management research; ‘Beasts, burrowers and birds’: The enactment of researcher identities in UK business schools

See on Scoop.itDual impact of research; towards the impactelligent university


In this article, we suggest that management research constitutes a field of practice that is made practically intelligible through embodied enactment. This relies on imagination, constructing modes of belonging within communities of management research practice. Undergraduate students constitute a significant audience towards whom these self-presentational performances are directed. Our analysis is based on findings from four UK business schools where students participated in a free drawing and focus group exercise and were asked to visualize a management researcher. Through identification of three dominant animal metaphors of management research practice, we explore the symbolic relations whereby a prevailing image of the management researcher, as untouchable, solitary, aggressive, competitive and careerist, is socially constructed. We argue that this competitive, self-interested impression of research is detrimental to ethical, critically reflexive, reciprocal and participatory modes of research, and to the development of management research as a broadly inclusive system of social learning.


The authors:

“The dominant animal metaphors that emerged from our study act as powerful organizational symbols that serve to frame reality (Kostera, 2008) by defining what constitutes a ‘successful’ management researcher and enabling alternative images to be rejected. This raises concerns about the ethics of management research practice, in particular the potentially exclusionary and marginalizing consequences of these images, for those who cannot or choose not to conform to them. Disappointingly, this competitive, self-interested image prevails despite repeated calls for greater managerial collaboration (Tranfield and Starkey, 1998), involved action (Chia and Holt, 2008), reciprocity (Bell and Bryman, 2007) and practical rationality (Sandberg and Tsoukas, 2011) in management research.”



‘Beasts, burrowers and birds’: The enactment of researcher identities in UK business schoolsEmma Bell, Daniel W Clarke

Management Learning 201, doi: 10.1177/135050761347889

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About Wilfred Mijnhardt
RMIMR is my virtual playground, a place to reflect on issues from my professional context, my job as Policy Director at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). RSM is the international university based business school at Erasmus University Rotterdam. More info here: Here is my list of relevant publications on the topic of my RMIMR weblog: The rss feed for my RMIMR collection is here: Here is my other weblog on impact of research:

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