4 responses to “Conference World and the Avoidance of Thought”

  1. Martin Quinn

    Sounds similar to the World Sociology Congress in Yokohama last year – nine days of papers, 60 something streams including 48 in one huge sports hall separated by office dividers which effectually meant everyone only heard the paper of the loudest speaker rather than the one they actually wanted to.

  2. Craig Prichard

    So on Friday of the AoM conference I hosted a event entitled ”Research as Community Practice; A Workshop in Memory of Ralph Stablein’. (here’s the link to proposal for the event: https://db.tt/diBUXvcM ). About 40 people came. For an hour or so we sat in a big circle and discussed the contribution of one of our colleagues who died of cancer on January 1, this year. We talked about Ralph Stablein’s contribution to the critical study of management and to our own thinking as part of that. The event was full of deep philosophical engagement, humour, emotion and to the value of critically-engaged academic work. What we learned from the event is that Ralph had made a tremendous contribution to each of us and consequently to all of us. Ralph never wrote a lot. His intellectual contribution was largely in discussion, in his korero, in his dialogue. Each meeting with Ralph, at conference such as the AoM, was a opportunity to really talk, to think, and to discuss. Sure Ralph loved a bit of gossip. But that was never his focus; he treated each discussion as a chance to share, to learn and to debate. The event was among the most extraordinary I have ever attended as professional academic. I’m really glad I organized it, I’m extremely glad people engaged in it in the way they did. Indeed it came very naturally to everyone. I think we are all the richer for it and if anyone would like to hear a recording of the event here is the link: https://db.tt/qv0rnQdt

  3. Craig Prichard

    On the Sunday of the AoM Conference I went to a plenary session run by the Gender and Diversity in Organization Division that was unlike any plenary session I’ve ever been to and certainly made the CMS division plenary seem dull, careerist and self-congratulatory. The session, as the programme description said, was a response to painfully persistent patterns of racist violence, manifested so grievously in the recent killings in Charleston, SC. The session was an effort to address the grief that this event had caused and question how that GDO division can address racism better, work that the division’s convenors regarded as critical to the Academy, to business schools globally, and to society as a whole. The session consisted of a set of circles of 6-8 academics and a facilitator. Some of the circles dealt with anti-racism work in different areas of the globe, racism and campus sexual assault, whiteness and racism. Each circle was asked to come up with concrete objectives, action steps, and ideas for initiatives. And that’s what we did for 90 or more minutes. It was an extraordinary session and the group I was in was intellectually powered by some of the most able academics working in field. Stella Nkoma and Nancy DiTomaso were but two of the contributors to our group but each group, judging by the feedback came back with some fantastically creative ideas, action plans and initiatives. As well as helping with some ideas I learn a huge amount about the dynamics of racism in the workplace. I also came away with some contacts and have since followed up with a couple of those in my group. It’s easy to snigger at the excess of conferences like the AoM, and its easy to wander around them in a jet-lagged haze and wonder what on earth people are doing. But if you choose carefully and engage fully then some parts of this conference can be an extremely rich intellectual, emotion and political experience. I’m not defending it all. It is excessive and of course professional work should go on in little exclusive groups in cute English villages as well. But academic work is a practice, a deeply institutionalized practice, concerned with remembering, sharing and learning and from that thinking and writing and doing more or doing it differently.

  4. Martin Parker

    Craig. I do know that some good things happen at the AoM, and I’ve been to a few of them over the years. I’m not sure that this invalidates my general point though. These mega-conferences are just not good ways to encourage thinking and learning which, given their espoused function, seems rather ironic! Small is much more beautiful.

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