Constructing and Sustaining Counter-institutional Identities
Academy of Management Journal, Forthcoming
Posted: 6 Dec 2019
Date Written: June 20, 2019
How do individuals and collectives construct and sustain identities that run counter to dominant institutions? We develop the notion of counter-institutional identity as involving individual and collective constructions of ‘who we are’ that are in strong opposition to dominant values and principles in the field, diverge from roles that are established through socialization and training, and involve practices that are proudly construed in direct contrast to field norms. We draw on findings from a comparative case study of Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams to theorize about the identity work of groups and individuals that enables and constrains counter-institutional identity constructions. We develop a cross-level process model of encapsulation in which authoritative texts (or prescriptive documents) play a role in sanctioning and enhancing counter-institutional identities. The model shows how rigorous positioning against ‘who we are not’ (an “identity foil”) through practices of oppositional identity work are combined with practices of relational identity work that reinforce counter-institutional identities by positively valuing ‘who we are’ as superior to the foil. These practices are crucial to understanding how and why counter-institutional identities are created and sustained.
Keywords: research methods, qualitative orientation, case, topic areas, organization and management theory, identity, managerial and organizational cognition, interpretive processes
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