SCOS 2011

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 29th Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism

Istanbul, Turkey

14th July – 17th July 2011

 Conference Theme: Recovery

As the world lives through the impact and aftershocks of the economic crisis, at the 29th SCOS conference we will be dreaming of recovery. What this recovery might look like, and how we might experience it, naturally depends on perspective. The radical left will be dreaming of an ongoing Habermasian legitimation crisis, in which recovery involves a global waking up to the inequities and environmental degradation which capitalism can be seen to generate. Moving much further right on the political spectrum, those in the neo-liberal Hayekian camp will, we presume, construct recovery as a swift return to free market economics without the ‘unnecessary’ intervention of an ‘always clumsy’ government of whatever kind. And of course there will be an innumerable number of way stations in between, such that there are a myriad possible recoveries we might envisage. But what better surroundings than Istanbul in which to have such a plurality of dreams? We will not only be dreaming of these many potential recoveries there but also experiencing them through the variety of regeneration projects parked in the heart of the city, consisting of a range of urban initiatives around ecological, financial, social, political and spiritual recovery in its metropolis and its microcosms.


Recovery then is an evocative and often circuitous concept of change which we can approach from multiple vantage points. There is, for example, the possibility of exploring recovery as a process of change leading to improved health and well-being. As such recovery can be framed as a process of healing and transformation for the better. As suggested above, this necessitates conceptualizing malaise or decline (which itself can be done in myriad ways) and of what might constitute the converse. There is also an interesting temporal, quasi-Foucauldian question here of whether recovery should be seen as a process – perhaps a never-ending one - or as the end state of wellness (to recollect an earlier SCOS theme from Cambridge in 2003). But then recovery might be about (re-)discovery of a real or imagined (or both/ and) time and place. Organizational and individual memory allows us possibilities of excavation which can help us uncover history not only as an absolute singularity but also as a colourful range of possibilities, and to reflect on the inevitably reconstructionist qualities of nostalgia and the dangers of forgetting. Indeed recovering could equally be interpreted as a process of concealment, obfuscation or mystification, or some kind of revisionism – or, on the other hand, as revelation and unveiling. To recover can also signify to get something back, to have it returned, to reclaim it as the ‘rightful’ owner or to be compensated for its loss. Still further, we can see recovery as extraction, of what lies beneath and is not immediately accessible – as in the extraction of natural substances such as oil, and the enormous environmental controversies surrounding such activities. And recovery can also signify reconstituting useful substances from refuse or waste. In all of these approaches to framing recovery – which are by no means exhaustive - it is experienced by individuals and organizations. So there is a movement from past through present to future, which might be supported, resisted, imagined and unimagined.


Istanbulis a magical city which provides an ideal venue in which we can discover, uncover and recover inspirations plentiful enough to aid us in framing individual and organizational recovery. Indeed we hope that the experience of Istanbul itself will also help SCOS participants to recover from any misconceptions they have about this great city, which is often constructed as a bridge between the east and the west, as it sits at the crossroads of civilizations. Istanbul literally straddles two continents and, depending again on perspective, it divides or unites the two. We will try to recover, reinvigorate, revisit and reinterpret both these tired frames themselves, and recover from them by exploring the possibilities of division, union and transcendence. This also allows us to remember and resurface themes, ideas and debates from our conferences in Manchester (2008) and in Copenhagen and Malmö (2009). Likewise, and building on our Lille (2010) conference theme, Istanbul can be understood as a city of mirrors, in which everyone can find a city that she or he is looking for. We can see empires and their constituent religions and ideologies rising and falling all at once in this city of contradictions, i.e. once a capital city for two past empires and yet with the feel of a small village in parts and similarly a crossroads for many religions but yet in a secular country. Istanbul is also a city where we can see ourselves, as all of these lenses can be read as projections of our deep fears, desires, loves, hates - but never our indifference. Thus, and as with any reflection, we will discover that Istanbul is not a place of impartiality, objectivity, dispassion and moderation: it is much more than that. We will submit our predominantly western gazes to what may itself become a journey of recovery, understood as repair and regeneration, in this city of mirrors.


Possible themes of recovery include, but are absolutely not limited to:

  • Rediscovery of frames of the past, present and future at work

  • Repair, regeneration and renewal in organizations
  • Memory, nostalgia, forgetting
  • Concealment, deceit, complicity, manipulation and recidivism in organizations
  • The limits of recovery/ failure to recover: deterioration, loss, death
  • Signs and signifiers of recovery in organizations
  • Body, soul and mind at work
  • Recovery as imaginary
  • The aesthetics of recovery
  • Redemption, reparation and recuperation: from pre- to post-recovery
  • Spaces, places and times of recovery
  • Ecologies of recovery and work systems as ecologies of healing
  • Relationships of recovery and healing, and which transcend toxicity
  • The East and West, or North and South, of recovery
  • Heroes and heroics, healing and salvation
  • Resistance to recovery
  • What can be recovered? Organizational reclamations or compensations


As always, alternative interpretations of the theme are both invited and encouraged. SCOS 2011 will also have an open stream, allowing for the presentation of papers of more general interest to the SCOS community. In addition we welcome suggestions for workshops or similar events in line with the proposed theme. Outlines of workshops should be the same length as a paper abstract and should give an indication of the resources needed, the number of participants, the time required, the approach to be taken and the session’s objectives. Please identify ‘open stream’ or ‘workshop’ on your abstract as appropriate.