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jammaers-ybema-2022-oddity-as-commodity-the-body-as-symbolic-resource-for-other-defying-identity-work.pdf (144.6 kB)

Oddity as Commodity? The body as symbolic resource for Other-defying identity work

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-29, 16:21 authored by Eline Jammaers, Sierk Ybema

While studies on the work people undertake on their ‘identities’ in professional contexts tend to focus on inner conversations between different possible selves, this paper considers the impact of ‘inherited’ prescriptions and expectations on such inner conversations and the entwining of identity work with historic conditions written onto the body. It does so by studying performing artists with dwarfism. Taking into account their long history of stereotypical roles within the entertainment sector and their visibly ‘different’ body which guarantees to solicit the gaze of others, this study considers identity in terms of the corporeal positioning of the self of artists whose position on stage is often morally disputed, both inside and outside the community of people with dwarfism. Analysing how people use their Othered bodies as a symbolic resource for identity work, we describe three different ways of engaging in embodied identity work: identity ‘ethicalization’, through stereotype- avoiding bodywork, ‘queering’, through stereotype- provoking bodywork, and ‘distancing’, through stereotype- acting bodywork. Each strategy is an attempt to redress the incoherence between preferred (personally aspired) and ascribed (historically inherited) identity. By analysing how people preserve an aspirational self and defy the image of being Other, this study contributes to existing debates by highlighting the role of history and the symbolic use of ‘oddity’ as an instrument in embodied identity work. In addition, it offers a reflective note on the problem of ‘academic exoticism’ through the sensitization of Other bodies and on the potential of able-bodied allyship to attenuate the lack of disability knowledge in management and organization studies.



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Organization Studies




SAGE Publications

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  • Published version


  • eng

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Journal Article

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  • School of Management Outputs