CFP Organization Studies: Uses of the Past: History and Memory in Organizations and Organizing

Organization Studies – Call for Papers

Special Issue on Uses of the Past: History and Memory in Organizations and Organizing

Guest Editors
Mads Mordhorst, Copenhagen Business School
Andrew Popp, University of Liverpool
Roy Suddaby, University of Victoria & Newcastle University Business School
R. Daniel Wadhwani, University of the Pacific

Deadline for Submissions: March 15, 2016

Historical approaches to management and organization research have been flourishing in recent years, following decades when it was seen as marginal to the field (Kipping and Üsdiken, 2014). The development has been characterized by plurality in both the conceptualization of organizations in historical time (Bucheli and Wadhwani, 2014) and in how history is researched (Rowlinson, Hassard, and Decker, 2014).

“Uses of the past” approaches do not only hold the promise of providing management and organizational researchers a novel lens from which to understand a range of phenomena related to organizations and organizing; it also suggests possibilities for re-thinking how the endeavour of academic history itself is conceived and written. Since its professionalization in the nineteenth century, academic history has been oriented to the study of the past in and for itself, a focus that remains a central and legitimate endeavour for the kind of the scholarly histories produced in history departments. As Leopold von Ranke (1824) put it, the purpose of scholarly history was not to “judg[e] the past for the benefit of future generations … it merely seeks to show the past as it once was (Ranke, 1824).” While most modern historians reject Rankean scientism, they still embrace Rankean professional norms in seeking to understand and represent actors and actions in the past “on their own terms.” The “uses of the past” approach, on the other hand, suggests that there is room for an alternative perspective on the study of the past, one that lies beyond the domain of professional history. The focus of this alternative perspective is on how the past is interpreted in the present, and the functions and uses of the past for purposes outside its own realm. Such an understanding of the past in many ways predates modern academic history and reflects the ancient tradition of historia magistra vitae – history as life’s teacher (Kosselleck, 2004). Such an approach emphasizes history’s value or use by actors to understand the present and set expectations for the future, rather than one based on history as a body of professional knowledge. It also shifts the emphasis of scholarship to the analysis of how actors interpret the past – an approach that may be more appropriate for academic research in organization studies than the approaches to history in history departments.

Although “uses of the past” approaches hold great promise in organization studies, much about these approaches remains unexplored. Thus, we invite submissions that will help further develop the uses of the past as a novel set of approaches to integrating history into management and organization studies.


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