Meeting and Resisting the Corporate Body Snatchers: The US Piloting Profession in Times of Downsizing and Restructuring

Amy L Fraher, Yiannis Gabriel


This article is based on an empirical study of employees' experience of downsizing at a US air carrier called Vimanas Airline (a pseudonym) and includes forty two semi-structured interviews with captains and co-pilots who worked at that airline. The product of a fruitful collaboration between an experienced researcher and former Vimanas co-pilot, the paper explores how a new regime of corporeal power and panoptic organizational discourses produced commercial pilots' subjectivity by first creating loyal company employees who actively participated in their own acculturation. Later, after airline restructuring, pilots modified their thinking and behaviour in an effort to maintain some sense of power, dignity, agency, and identity, resisting managerial efforts at further colonization. It became clear that complex and partly competing reality construction processes were at play. Contrary to previous research finding employees to often be complicit rather than resistant to managerial control efforts, particularly during times of corporate crisis, this study reports airline employees both participated in, yet later resisted managerial control efforts. Prompted by one of our respondents we refer to this colonization process as 'bodysnatching' with reference to the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.


Employee resistance, elite professionals, downsizing, merger, airlines

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