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Storytelling and the future of organizations

Conference with Professor Michael Bamberg and Professor David M. Boje. The deadline for abstracts has been extended to March 15th.


08.05.2019 - 10.05.2019


Organizational storytelling stands as one of the most important markers of critical engagement and scholarship in organization studies. It is hailed as an approach that makes it possible to create counternarratives to dominant narratives (Boje, 2001, 2011, Boje, Haley & Saylors, 2016; Boje & Cai-Hillon, 2017; Boje, Svane, & Gergerich, 2016; Henderson & Boje, 2016, Svane, Gergerich & Boje, 2016).

Critical Storytelling, plurality and power

Storytelling is said to be the means of the oppressed simply because it allows plural people to speak, act and make their appearance in organizations and in regard to research of organizations (Jørgensen, 2017; Tally, 2001). Storytelling has among others been applied to critical ethnography (Ferdinand, Pearson, Rowe and Worthington, 2007; Jørgensen, Henriksen & Dembek, 2015), studies of organizational culture and change (Adorisio, 2014; Rhodes & Price, 2011; Vaara & Tienari, 2011), leadership development (Bager, 2015; Boje, 2008; Hersted, 2016; Schedlitzki, Jarvis & MacInnes, 2015) and to studies of power and politics in organizations (Jørgensen, 2002, 2007).

True Storytelling and -making

Storytelling and -making refer to different ways in which people make sense of the world, create identity and craft realities (Bager, 2016; Bamberg, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2016; Bamberg & Georgakopoulou, 2008; Banerjee, 2003; Boje, 1991, 1995; Brown, 2006; Brown, Gabriel and Gherardi, 2009; Czarniawska, 1997, 2004; Gabriel, 2000; Gabriel, Geiger, & Letiche, 2011; Geiger, 2010; Jørgensen, 2018; Rhodes and Brown, 2005; Svane, forthcoming in 2019a, Weick, 1995).

Benjamin proclaimed that the modern condition implied the loss of storytelling capability in his classic essay from 1936 (Benjamin, 1999, 2016). According to Benjamin, the storyteller is the figure in which the righteous man encounters himself. Benjamin argued that true stories emerge from ‘the ground’, i.e. from the relational engagements and that people were part of in everyday life, i.e. the living stories (Boje, 2001; Jørgensen and Boje, 2010). According to Benjamin, commitments, identifications and meanings emerge from such collective activities in local communities and spaces. The loss of storytelling capability is for him caught in the phrase that experience has fallen in value compared to modern rationalistic Western narrative tradition, which is linked to modern consumption and production cycles. Organizational storytelling implies a renaissance of the value of local community lives, spaces and embodied experiences.

Performative Storytelling

Judith Butler notes that “The ‘I’ has no story of its own that is not also a story of a relation” (Butler, 2005, p. 8). Together with Benjamin, Butler emphasizes that stories are collective, material and situated (Butler, 2006, 2015; Butler and Berbec, 2017). Stories are shaped and belong to human, social, material and natural geographies. Social practices, customs, communities, organizations, institutions, landscapes, spaces, animals and other people speak through peoples’ stories (Barad, 2007; Boje, 2018; Jørgensen and Strand, 2014; Jørgensen and Largarcha-Martinez, 2014; Rosile, 2016; Strand, 2012, Svane, forthcoming in 2019b). People have agency but this agency become through the relational entanglements whereby one’s story is shaped, framed and enacted as a unique expression (Arendt, 1998). We cannot understand people outside the everyday spaces they go into and create every day. These spaces enact people as well as being enacted by them (Barad, 2007; Mol, 1999, 2002). Through stories we make sense of the world but is also through stories that we express ourselves as political beings with our own voices, intentions and interests (Arendt, 1998). As political actors, we are morally compelled to take action in order to transform the world.

Michael Bamberg and David M. BojeThe theme of the conference

This theme of the conference is to create antenarratives of the future in regard to how organizations work. We have invited two of the most excellent scholars within the field as keynote speakers: Michael Bamberg and David M. Boje.

Contributions are encouraged to be within the following fields:

* Organizational storytelling in regard to problems concerning sustainability, for example. water, plastic, CO2 emissions, the fashion industry or other environmental issues and problems.

* Storytelling and -making as a source of leadership development and management learning.

* Antenarrative strategizing: how to use storytelling to imagine and create alternative futures.

* Stories as a counternarratives to dominant narratives: micro-stories vs. grand narratives, or indigenous storytelling versus Western narrative tradition.

* Storytelling and -making in regard to entrepreneurship and business development.

* The connections between space and storytelling, i.e. material approaches to storytelling and the connections between community, rural, urban or/and regional spaces and storytelling.

* Storytelling/-making in relation to organizational identity and temporality.




Abstracts are due  March 15th and are expected to be max. 1000 words.

They should be sent to Kenneth Mølbjerg Jørgensen: kmj@business.aau.dk and Ann Starbæk Bager: bager@hum.aau.dk

View references (PDF)





There is a participation fee of 90 Euro, which includes morning and afternoon coffee, tea, fruit and cake for the entire conference. Participants will be able to buy lunch at the university canteen.


The Department of Business and Management at Aalborg university in close collaboration with Mattering, Centre for Discourse & Practice, AAU, Centre for Narratological studies (CNS), SDU and Centre for Organiza-tional practice and Communication (OPC), SDU.


Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark.

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15.03.2019 kl. 12.00

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