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Narratives of workplace resistance: Reframing Saudi women in leadership

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Abstract

Despite considerable social, economic, and organizational advancements that Saudi women have achieved in the past two decades, research on Saudi women in leadership continues to focus on the structural, organizational, and societal challenges the women face. Often missing from analyses are the micro ways in which the women resist and negotiate with/against organizational challenges. Using a postcolonial feminist lens, we asked: how do Saudi women leaders resist power in the workplace? This question was posed to reinsert the value of Saudi women within organizational narratives, generate deeper understanding of a marginalized group of women, and understand resistance as located within socio-political-ethical structures. Our contributions are threefold: (1) this study advances the literature on Saudi women in organizations by focusing on resistance as a point of entry and analysis; (2) we add a less antagonistic relationship between power/resistance, and reconceptualize agency/resistance as one inclusive of subtle and individual forms of resistance, and one that moves beyond the limits of the liberal imaginary; (3) our study also adds to the burgeoning scholarship on workplace resistance in non-Western contexts, which advocates for situated knowledge and the decolonization of management.

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... Yet, women in leadership do push against the status quo, sometimes in ways that are small and subtle but significant enough to instigate change in their organisations (Cho et al., 2021). These include micro-acts of resistance such as rearticulating dominant discourses with slightly different meanings to legitimise women's organisational demands and their role as leaders (Jamjoom and Mills, 2022), what Foucault (1990) speaks of as 'reversing' discourses. Reverse discourses draw on the language of disciplining rhetorics but do so to make a case for lower power groups (Kingfisher, 1996). ...
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PART I: INTRODUCTION The Gaze of the Other: Postcolonial Theory and Organizational Analysis A.Prasad PART II: POSTCOLONIAL ENGAGEMENTS WITH MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION THEORY Toward a Postcolonial Reading of Organizational Control R.A.Mir, A.Mir & P.Upadhyaya Managing Organizational Culture and Imperialism B.Cooke The Empire of Organizations and the Organization of Empires: Postcolonial Considerations on Theorizing Workplace Resistance A.Prasad & P.Prasad Decolonizing and Re-Presenting Culture's Consequences: A Postcolonial Critique of Cross-Cultural Studies in Management D.Kwek PART III: CURRENT ISSUES AND EMPIRICAL INVESTIGATIONS The Return of the Native: Organizational Discourses and the Legacy of the Ethnographic Imagination P.Prasad Reading the Rhetoric of Otherness in the Discourse of Business and Economics: Towards a Postdisciplinary Practice E.Priyadharshini Accounting for the Banal: Financial Techniques as Softwares of Colonialism D.Neu Asserting Possibilities of Resistance in the Cross-Cultural Teaching Machine: Re-Viewing Videos of Others G.Jack & A.Lorbiecki From the Colonial Enterprise to Enterprise Systems: Parallels between Colonization and Globalization A.Gopal, R.Wills & Y.Gopal The Practice of Stakeholder Colonialism: National Interest and Colonial Discourses in the Management of Indigenous Stakeholders S.B.Bannerjee PART IV: CONCLUSION The Postcolonial Imagination A.Prasad & P.Prasad
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Recent management and organizational research has frequently noted the complex nature of workplace resistance, and commented upon the difficulties attending scholarly efforts to theorize resistance in organizations (Hodson, 1995; Jermier, Knights, & Nord, 1994a; Prasad & Prasad, 1998, 2000, 2001). The objective of this chapter is to explore the limits/margins of current management scholarship on workplace resistance by means of drawing upon certain aspects of resistance theory that have received attention in postcolonial theory and criticism. In so doing, the chapter seeks to direct scholarly focus toward new—and hitherto relatively unexplored— areas of complexity that may surround management researchers’ endeavors aimed at theorizing resistance in organizations. Toward that end, the chapter especially looks at two features often found in postcolonial theoretic meditations on resistance—(a) the notion of “unconscious resistance,” and (b) ideas of ambivalence, mimicry, hybridity, and so on and their significance for resistance—and examines the questions, issues, concerns, and dilemmas that they seem to raise for organizational scholars engaged in researching workplace resistance.
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The notion of organizational control has been a constant theme in the construction and representations of euromodern1 organizations. The discourse of control has been justified in organizational theory on a variety of counts, such as the need to eliminate stubborn “soldiering” by recalcitrant employees (Taylor, 1911), the inducement of collaborative enterprise (Barnard, 1938), the curtailment of opportunist practices in organizational transactions (Williamson, 1985), the management of bounded rationality (Simon, 1957), the development of adaptive mechanisms (Hannan & Freeman, 1977), the facilitation of diverse organizational conversations (Srivastava & Cooperrider, 1990), the management of organizational knowledge (Davenport & Prusak, 1998), or even the need to create a paradigmatic consensus in organizational research (Pfeffer, 1993). On the other hand, mainstream theories of organizational control have been critiqued as being coercive (Braverman, 1974), insensitive to noncontractual trust-based control systems (Perrow, 1979), or unmindful of the fundamental causal determinants of conflict (Jermier, Knights, & Nord, 1994). Scholars have pointed to the enacted nature of organizational reality (Weick, 1979), the constructed nature of academic practices (Canella & Paetzold, 1994), and the anthropocentric biases that have dominated management research (Shrivastava, 1996), thereby seeking to destabilize the platform of positivism on which much of the mainstream discourse of organizational control stands.
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Despite being central to the project of postcolonialism, the concept of resistance has received only limited theoretical examination. Writers such as Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Homi K. Bhabha have explored instances of revolt, opposition, or subversion, but there has been insufficient critical analysis of the concept of resistance, particularly as it relates to liberation or social and cultural transformation. In Postcolonial Resistance, David Jefferess looks to redress this critical imbalance. Jefferess argues that interpreting resistance, as these critics have done, as either acts of opposition or practices of subversion is insufficient. He discerns in the existing critical literature an alternate paradigm for postcolonial politics, and through close analyses of the work of Mohandas Gandhi and the South African reconciliation project, Postcolonial Resistance seeks to redefine resistance to reconnect an analysis of colonial discourse to material structures of colonial exploitation and inequality. Engaging works of postcolonial fiction, literary criticism, historiography, and cultural theory, Jefferess conceives of resistance and reconciliation as dependent upon the transformation of both the colonial subject and the antagonistic nature of colonial power. In doing so, he reframes postcolonial conceptions of resistance, violence, and liberation, thus inviting future scholarship in the field to reconsider past conceptualizations of political power and opposition to that power.
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Methods of approaching the study of discourse have developed rapidly in the last ten years, influenced by a growing interdisciplinary spirit among linguistics and anthropology, sociology, cognitive and cultural psychology and cultural studies, as well as among established sub-fields within linguistics itself. Among the more recent developments are an increasing ‘critical’ turn in discourse analysis, a growing interest in historical, ethnographic and corpus-based approaches to discourse, more concern with the social contexts in which discourse occurs, the social actions that it is used to take and the identities that are constructed through it, as well as a revaluation of what counts as ‘discourse’ to include multi-modal texts and interaction. Advances in Discourse Studies brings together contributions from leading scholars in the field, investigating the historical and theoretical relationships between new advances in discourse studies and pointing towards new directions for the future of the discipline. Featuring discussion questions, classroom projects and recommended readings at the end of each section, as well as case studies illustrating each approach discussed, this is an invaluable resource for students of interdisciplinary discourse analysis.
Book
Women in Saudi Arabia are often described as either victims of patriarchal religion and society or successful survivors of discrimination imposed on them by others. Madawi Al-Rasheed's new book goes beyond these conventional tropes to probe the historical, political, and religious forces that have, across the years, delayed and thwarted their emancipation. The book demonstrates how, under the patronage of the state and its religious nationalism, women have become hostage to contradictory political projects that on the one hand demand female piety, and on the other hand encourage modernity. Drawing on state documents, media sources, and interviews with women from across Saudi society, the book examines the intersection between gender, religion, and politics to explain these contradictions and to show that, despite these restraints, vibrant debates on the question of women are opening up as the struggle for recognition and equality finally gets under way.
Article
Based on fieldwork and subaltern studies as a theoretical framework, this article engages organizational discourses of farmers in Singur, India. Opposing their land grab by the state for a corporate project, the farmers join the global struggle against land acquisition by subaltern communities, a prominent feature of the neoliberal economy. My conversations with the farmers reveal that discourses of violence and non-violence informed their organization of struggle. Further, their organization of resistance emerges as a self-organization, demonstrates the interplay of agency and structure, and follows an ethico-political ideology to challenge the imperial power produced by state-corporate nexus. In particular, cultural value frames of ahimsa (non-violence) and dharma (moral) guide their organizational principles centered on ethical considerations, justice and human dignity. This research brings forth the counter-hegemonic potential of the Singur resistance and suggests its possibilities to contribute to the process of change in the neoliberal economy. Ultimately, the peasant discourses decentralize the ways we think of the world in terms of its forms of organization and its social life in the neoliberal political order, and offer social imaginaries of a politically just society.
Article
The January 2013 appointment of thirty Saudi women leaders to the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) underlined the commitment of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to greater engagement by Saudi women in the national decision-making process. Institutions including the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue now offer platforms for women to enter official deliberations, both nationally and regionally. This paper shows how Saudi women leaders confront and deal with the new challenges and opportunities available to them, and discusses some of the challenges they face, the methods they use to deal with such challenges, and ways and means through which they activate their leadership roles. Additionally, the study attempts to advance our understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing women at the forefront of societal reform, that is, the leaders of societal groupings arguing that Saudi female leaders, the “trailblazers”, can play a positive role in Saudi national development.