Embodied Identities: Toward an Organizational Research Agenda in a Material World

Cynthia Bean, Rita Durant


Recently scholars have begun to explore the influence of materiality on organizations. For example, Gagliardi (1996) notes that the physical setting cultivates human senses and Gieryn (2002) asserts that buildings are a stabilizing influence in social life and are objects of (re)interpretation, with meanings or stories flexibly interpreting the walls and floors they describe. As a counterpoint to the materiality of organizations represented by places and spaces, the materiality of worker identity is noted in embodiment. While organizational studies address a plethora of individual constructs (e.g., motivation, self-efficacy, personality) the embodied identity of workers is a topic largely absent from the field. As individuals manufacture identities in organizational life, what role does the materiality of the body play? The embodied-self influences cognition and emotion (Varella, Thompson, and Rosch, 1991). This paper explores the influence of embodiment on individual identities, actions, decisions and experiences. Examples from a case study highlight issues of embodied selves at work, illuminating the significance of embodiment in workers' processes of manufacturing identities. 

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