Researchers assert that, by engaging in these reflexive practices, they can create sufficient distance to reflect on the assumptions, reasoning, and knowledge inherent in someone else's research project, and to see something that others do not. For example, Knights , p. In this way, the practices ironically evoke a degree of omnipotence in that the reflexive researcher claims to possess insights that others do not.
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Since these practices tend to be used to undermine the work of others, rather than applied to the reflexive researchers' own research, researchers are able, to a certain extent, to avoid making the truth claims that they would dismiss in the case of others. But, in offering warnings rather than guidelines, these practices are limited in their ability to generate new knowledge. Furthermore, by reflecting on the framework that we have constructed, we can identify additional ways of being reflexive. One conclusion that follows from the identification of four separate sets of practices is that, by combining them, we might generate additional questions for researchers to consider.
For example, does the author emerge out of one particular perspective and then apply other perspectives? Or does the author or different authors emerge from where the perspectives overlap or, even perhaps, from gaps where the perspectives do not connect? Is there, in fact, such a space and, if so, how might we conceptualize it? Positioning practices help to interrogate how the choice of perspectives is influenced by time and context.
What is the political agenda associated with particular choices? How do new choices emerge and become legitimated?
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How are particular paradigms produced out of the relationships among researcher, research community, and the available resources, i. Finally, the application of destabilizing practices might lead to a different dynamic: instead of the sequential or parallel use of perspectives to build on each other, researchers might use them to undermine each other and to interrogate the relationships among them more fundamentally. Rather than positing perspectives as complementary and, therefore by changing interpretation, adding more positive knowledge to produce a more holistic picture, different perspectives might be used to challenge each other and to illuminate potential problems with one particular perspective, as in Alvesson's juxtaposition of Foucault and Habermas.
Reflexive researchers could examine the relationships among these multiple subjects brought into focus by alternative readings encouraged by the use of different perspectives. For example, why are these practices so much less common in OMT than in anthropology? Why are some subjects less likely to be given a voice? Why is giving managers a voice — in a sensitive way — a relatively rare practice in critical management studies?
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How does this relate to the way in which critical management studies has been constructed from particular voices, such as Marx, Gramsci and Habermas? What imprint has been left by these ancestral voices and how does it shape the political agenda of reflexive research? The use of destabilizing practices might help reflexive researchers deconstruct the multiplicity of voices that appear in researchers' accounts.
And what is the relation of liberated voices to understandings of political correctness? How does the postmodern and critical project shape the choices of the reflexive researcher in silencing or amplifying particular voices? In other words, in what other ways can the relationship between the author, the research subject, and the reflexive researcher be destabilized? Different theories may be helpful in moving beyond the research community — or a particular version of it — to consider how broader societal and cultural trends influence research.
For example, Lasch's conception of a narcissistic culture or Baudrillard's conceptions of a postmodern society may provide theoretical resources for alternative constructions of the social logics that influence accounts of positioning, as well as providing a different portfolio of perspectives than is usually used. One could imagine a research text as an outcome of a multitude of different voices, all trying to give as much input as possible to the process and the outcome. Informants and other representatives of the business community also play a role in shaping the work.
Making sense of and reflecting upon how these voices are being emphasized, marginalized, repressed, channelled, and translated would be a useful exercise in reflexivity. Positioning practices can also be interrogated by the use of destabilizing practices that draw attention to the relationship between the researcher and the research community. In the same way that the practices of particular authors have been deconstructed for how they make knowledge claims, the practices of reflexive authors might be destabilized to show how they make reflexivity claims.
Those who rely on destabilizing practices tend to construct one particular reading of other theorists. What if, for example, multiple texts written by Porter or Weick were explored? How have the voices of these authors changed in response to their destabilization?
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Have they been muted in deference or become stridently defensive? Targeting multiple voices and using practices to destabilize the relationships among them, would provide insights to complement the destabilization of a single, disconnected voice. By applying positioning practices these researchers might ask questions about their own reflexive practices. For example, where do these deconstructions sit in the academic community?
How does destabilization produce the reflexive researcher as an obligatory passage point, as opposed to other sets of practices? What are the political benefits of deconstructing the work of others? How does marginalizing the Other benefit one's own career prospects cf. Sangren, ? Another set of questions might involve considering the relationships between the destabilizing and destabilized subjects? How might the destabilized subject destabilize the destabilizer? How can Weick or Porter reply within the strictures laid down by the tenets of postmodernism; can they resist in a way that would be acknowledged as epistemologically valid by the reflexive researcher?
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The combination of these sets of practices provides an endless space of potentially useful interplays. The questions that we raise are not intended to be exhaustive; nor do we suggest that our four sets of practices offer a complete or final summary of reflexive practices. Nonetheless, by exploring the different ways in which reflexivity is practiced in OMT and combining them, we are in a position to learn more about how academic knowledge is produced — the emphasis is less about how an individual researcher conducts a particular study and more about the ways in which knowledge is constructed by and in a community.
It engages with the problems, uncertainties and social contingencies of knowledge claims — whether empirical claims, concepts or theoretical propositions. These practices are conducted in attempts to counteract harm — to challenge efforts to stabilize the view of the world in a particular way and expose the unreflexive reproduction of dominant vocabularies, rules or conventions in social research.
Instances of alternative constructions and reconstruction of fundamental elements of the research project are central to these reflexive practices. They provide alternative descriptions, interpretations, results, vocabularies, voices, and points of departures that could be taken into account, and show some of the differences that they would make. Moving between tearing down — pointing at the weaknesses in the text and disarming truth claims — and then developing something new or different, where the anxieties of offering positive knowledge do not hold the researcher back.
In bringing the understanding of reflexivity to bear on ourselves, we acknowledge that we take the focus away from what other researchers are doing with regard to reflexivity and turn the spotlight on ourselves, possibly earning the criticism of narcissism as a result. In trying to be reflexive we naturally face the sorts of problems that others face and we do not intend to set ourselves up as somehow being immune from the problems that beset other scholars.
We hope, however, that we can fruitfully bring the range of reflexive practices that we have identified to bear on our own efforts at knowledge production. We start by confessing our criterion for successful reflexivity; that is, whether it makes a productive difference. We believe some kind of tangible result should be demonstrated, such as ideas, concepts, challenges to conventional thinking, or suggestions for new research. Being productive does not necessarily mean being positive — negating or deconstructing ideas is also a productive outcome.
Going through the intimate relation between the researcher and their knowledge in a reflexive loop should, we believe, lead to some novel re descriptions, re interpretations or re problematizations that add some quality to the text and the results it communicates. Nonetheless, it seems clear that we favour instrumental reflexivity Weick, : for us, reflexivity is not primarily an end in itself, but a means to improve research in some way.
We therefore present a classification which, we tell readers, constitutes a new way of thinking — about reflexivit ies rather than reflexivity; and about practices that come to be known as various forms of reflexivity. Thus we argue that our categorization constitutes a contribution, not only informing theoretical reflection but also research design. But what exactly is our contribution? Have we identified something? Or have we constructed a particular version of reflexivity? Have we simply mapped a body of literature?
Or have we ordered and domesticated the field, using our powers as established researchers to normalize how reflexivity is to be understood? Or have we provided a catalyst for further discussions on reflexivity? And, if the latter, what does our classification mean for the construction of knowledge about reflexivity? One observation is that different consumers might use our work differently.
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