Embodied Narration and The Body as Story in Processes of Knowledge Production
This project proposes, develops, and tests a new theoretical concept termed embodied narration to understand the role of the body in processes of knowledge production. Specifically, this project draws upon postmodern organizing and narrative theorizing to argue that the body itself – not just those stories told about the body – is discursive, and thus, serves to produce, reproduce, or challenge existing organizational knowledge and power structures. Embodied narration – the expression of the body’s stories through the body without the imposition of the written or spoken word – is conceptualized as one process through which such continued oppression or resistance occurs.
Embodied narration was examined within the organizing context of distance running, a fitting context given its operation as an ideological discipline centered on embodied practices and the salience of the gaze among organizational members. This study employed photovoice methodology to procure participant photographs meant to approximate spectatorship of embodied narration. Further, participants shared their experiences and observations of organizational knowledge and disciplinary mechanisms in semi-structured interviews. A grounded theory analysis was employed to identify emergent themes related to organizational knowledge and discipline and provided the researcher and other readers with the preunderstanding of organizational knowledge necessary for situated interpretations of photographs. Participant photographs are presented in the absence of the written or spoken word to allow the subjects depicted in them to speak for themselves, as is consistent with the assumptions of embodied narration.
Results indicate unique knowledge and disciplinary mechanisms within the organizing context of distance running which are consistent with past and ongoing research. Importantly, participant stories of spectatorship provide insight into the possibilities of embodied narration within this context, including the role of member inclusion/exclusion and body visibility/invisibility in such processes. From these stories, conclusions were drawn regarding the many possible ways by which embodied narration may be employed or enacted within other contexts. In all, this project extends postmodern organizing and narrative theorizing by rejecting the assumption that discourse is inherently linguistic, and by introducing a new process by which power/knowledge is produced.