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Trapped in limbo – Academics' identity negotiation in conditions of perpetual liminality

Trapped in limbo – Academics' identity negotiation in conditions of perpetual liminality This paper aims to investigate the experiences of permanent liminality of academics and the associated multidimensional processes of identity negotiation.Design/methodology/approachThe article draws upon a three-and-a-half-year at-home ethnography. The first author – as insider, participant and researcher – investigated the consequences of an organizational redesign that pushed members of a local university department into a situation of permanent liminality.FindingsThe paper describes how academics simultaneously followed multiple trajectories in their identity negotiation as a response to ongoing experiences of ambiguity, disorientation, powerlessness and loss of status.Practical implicationsManagement decisions in higher education institutions based on administrative concerns can have adverse effects for academics, particularly when such decisions disturb, complicate or even render impossible identification processes. University managers need to realize and to respond to the struggle of academics getting lost in an endless quest for defining who they are.Originality/valueThe paper highlights the dual character of identity negotiation in conditions of permanent liminality as unresolved identity work through simultaneous identification and dis-identification. It further shows the multidimensionality of this identity work and argues that identity negotiation as a response to perpetual liminality is informed by notions of struggle and notions of opportunity. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal Emerald Publishing

Trapped in limbo – Academics' identity negotiation in conditions of perpetual liminality

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
1746-5648
DOI
10.1108/qrom-09-2020-2023
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to investigate the experiences of permanent liminality of academics and the associated multidimensional processes of identity negotiation.Design/methodology/approachThe article draws upon a three-and-a-half-year at-home ethnography. The first author – as insider, participant and researcher – investigated the consequences of an organizational redesign that pushed members of a local university department into a situation of permanent liminality.FindingsThe paper describes how academics simultaneously followed multiple trajectories in their identity negotiation as a response to ongoing experiences of ambiguity, disorientation, powerlessness and loss of status.Practical implicationsManagement decisions in higher education institutions based on administrative concerns can have adverse effects for academics, particularly when such decisions disturb, complicate or even render impossible identification processes. University managers need to realize and to respond to the struggle of academics getting lost in an endless quest for defining who they are.Originality/valueThe paper highlights the dual character of identity negotiation in conditions of permanent liminality as unresolved identity work through simultaneous identification and dis-identification. It further shows the multidimensionality of this identity work and argues that identity negotiation as a response to perpetual liminality is informed by notions of struggle and notions of opportunity.

Journal

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: May 21, 2021

Keywords: Permanent liminality; Identification; Disidentification; Identity work; Academia

References