Call for Papers - Abilities and ableism as ethical dilemmas of organizing

Guest Co-Editors 

Anica Zeyen, School of Business and Management, Royal Holloway University of London (corresponding)
Oana Branzei, Ivey Business School, Western University
Susanne Bruyere, Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, Cornell University
Silvia Dorado-Banacloche, University of Massachusetts Boston
Eline Jammaers, Louvain Research Institute in Management and Organizations, Université Catholique de Louvain
Nidhi Singal, The Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Gregor Wolbring, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary

Submission deadline: 31st March 2022

The disability community is the largest minority in the world (UN Enable, 2020). Simply understood as a socially-sanctioned preference for species-typical normative abilities, (dis)ableism directly affects one billion people as about 15% of the global population are disabled (WHO, 2019). 
Disableism refers to the discrimination of disabled people. Ableism points to the preference for norm and normative bodies and minds (Campbell 2009). (Dis)ableism undergirds, and informs, any structural oppression based on differences in our bodies, minds, and (perceived or presumed) abilities (Goodley, 2010). Normative mind-body differences lie at the root of several –isms including racism, sexism, class/casteism, nationalism, colonialism, GDP-ism, consumerism, specism and (anti)environmentalism (Wolbring 2008, p. 253). Feminist, critical race, queer, post-colonial and post-human theories, among others, draw attention to abilities and ableism at work.
This thematic issue foregrounds the role of abilities and ableism as ethical dilemmas vital to inclusive organizing. Despite their ubiquity in organizations, (dis)abilities and (dis)ableism have been only scarcely studied thus far in management journals (for recent exceptions, see Jammaers & Zanoni, 2020; Martin & Honig, 2020). By problematizing, and revising, the boundary between (dis)ability and ability, we call out othering based on mind-body differences (Davis, 2002) and invite instead the discovery of commonalities and complementaries. 
We hope that making the mind-body continuum a focal point of theorizing will awaken and amplify attention to more inclusive ethical practices in future workplaces. This thematic issue promotes anti-(dis)ableist research at all levels, from the micro to the meta. Below are some potential avenues to deepen insights into (dis)abilities and (dis)ableism as ethical dilemmas:
The body-mind continuum: Recent attention to the varieties of ableism (Jammaers & Zanoni, 2020) calls forth ways in which bodies are continuously re-crafted (Jammaers & Williams, 2020) to ritualize and/or resist current organizing practices leading to new ethical dilemmas. First-person accounts have a long tradition and legitimate standing in disability studies, but such voices and approaches remain underrepresented in management research. The conspicuous absence of lived experience makes it difficult to imagine other people’s abilities, getting in the way of engaging the full mind-body continuum. This thematic issue seeks to alleviate othering (Bell & de Gamma, 2019) within and across different occupations (Dale & Burrell, 2014) and spaces of organizing, physical (Haug, 2013), relational (Methot, Melwani, & Rothman, 2017) and hybrid (Ulus, 2020). We encourage embodied and emplaced methodologies and theories that explicitly account for the plurality of bodies and especially mind-body continua that intersect with other –isms in each work exchange and workplace. Explicit attention to the mind-body continuum at work, and the various interfaces between ability and disability as workers balance role demands and transitions among different occupations and spaces are particularly relevant. Forms of participation in reshaping workplaces though mundane forms of microscopic activism, mobilization of allies and mutualisation of expectations can also illuminate the complex ways in which disabilities enable more inclusive decisions and practices.

(Dis)abilities in occupations: Taking the mind-body continuum seriously can relax normative expectations and allow a more flexible and dynamic understanding of (dis)abilities across occupations. Prior theories of body image and the working body may be extended with insights from disability studies and post-humanism. Submissions may explore how leading occupational practices struggle with career-long adjustments and reveal fast-tracks to inclusion through patchwork or bypasses of workflows that recognize, and organize for, previously under-utilized (dis)abilities.

(Dis)abilities in space: Co-situating employees with a variety of (dis)abilities in novel (digital) spaces with very different accessibility requirements may “upset” previous habits and “undo” (dis)ableist prejudices (Van Laer, Jammaers & Hoeven, 2020). Shifting workplace interfaces can also relieve certain mind-body stressors and document new forms of vulnerability and stress that restrict one’s full mind and/or body.

Meaning in-the-making: Novel combination of embodied and emplaced approaches to the study of (dis)abilities in work interactions can also inform sense- and meaning-making, especially as organizations face unprecedented disruptions. Attention to how different types and levels of suffering command attention and accommodation in physical, virtual, or hybrid working arrangements may extend theories of internal stakeholder management and responsibility by more fully theorizing (dis)abilities. We encourage special attention to opportunities for inclusive organizing as we update our mind-body reference points: how does the duality of (dis)ability at work enable collectives to transcend prior equilibria and co-design a more inclusive “new normal”?

Ethics of care: Hierarchies of sympathy and empathy can become barriers to inclusion. As the (dis)ability assumptions are overtly and candidly questioned, it is imperative to shed or at least shelf assumptions of who helps whom (Tomkins & Eatough 2014) based on pre-classified expectations of (dis)abilities and make room for new ways of understanding care in organizing. Research has documented both the burden and the benefit of self-care practices in traditional workplaces (Jammaers & Williams, 2020). Accounts of lived experience at work poignantly describe the social trauma and violence that results from discrimination. However, organizations are also sites of positive shifts in identities that transcend mind-body norms and discover new normal through post-human organizing. Abductive approaches that translate epiphanies disclosed by people living with different disabilities may be piloted and scaled into larger-scale diary studies or experiments. We are particularly excited about small scale ethnographic experiments that may allow real-time theorizing with participants. We also welcome critical syntheses that combine prior findings to offer meta, multi-disciplinary insights.

From suffering to sharing: Theories of distress organizing (Kahn, 2019) and institutionalized suffering (Stowell & Warren, 2018) can elaborate on models of adversity and adaptation at work. We are particularly excited about the novel opportunities to humanize workplace exchanges based on shared weakness rather than strength, and to figure out unexpected upsides of combining diverse mind-bodies, such as mutuality or reciprocity.

From stigma complex to self as resource: Core self-processes, such as self-compassion to counter exploitation (Livne-Ofer, Coyle-Shapiro & Pearce, 2019) and stigmatization (Pescolindo & Martin, 2015), can become critical resources of organizing, especially in uncertain or dangerous times. We are particularly interested in accounts of belonging and becoming as workplaces become more inclusive to co-workers disclosing (in)visible disabilities (Jammaers, Zanoni & Hardonk, 2016). We also encourage questions about when and how (dis)abled selves at work may become critical resources for others (Buetow, Kapur & Wolbring, 2019). How does living with “atypical” mind-body continua help one’s colleagues anticipate and prepare others for upcoming shocks? What novel types of socioemotional regulation can “atypicals” offer colleagues facing unprecedented challenges at work and beyond?

Thematic Issue Submission Instructions

Submissions are welcomed from a variety of theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary perspectives, as long as they are closely in line with the topic of the Thematic Symposium. Authors are strongly encouraged to refer to the JBE’s submission guidelines for detailed instructions on submitting a paper to this Special Issue. Please note that a paper submitted to this Special Issue is considered a submission to the JBE and therefore cannot be resubmitted to a regular issue of the journal. All submissions must be made via JBE’s online submission system by 31st March 2022. Please be sure to indicate that the paper is for this Thematic Symposium during the submission process. The online submission system will start accepting submissions 60 days prior to the call for papers submission deadline. All manuscripts will go through a double-blind peer-reviewed process according to JBE’s guidelines. Any questions regarding this Thematic Symposium should be addressed to Dr. Anica Zeyen (

The guest co-editors invite interested authors to attend an accessible virtual Spring Institute on March 1-5, 2021. Up to 20 author teams will be matched with, and mentored by, 20 leading scholars working at the intersections of organizing and disability studies. Selection criteria and the program are available on Additional half-day paper development workshops will run during 2021. If you are interested, please fill in this form and we will get in touch once dates are confirmed. Submission is not contingent on participation in these paper development options, or vice-versa.


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Buetow, S.A., Kapur, N., Wolbring, G. (2019). From rehabilitation to ultrabilitation: Moving forward, Disability and Rehabilitation, 42(11): 1487–1489.

Campbell, F.K. (2009). Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dale, K., & Burrell, G. (2014). Being occupied: An embodied re-reading of organizational “wellness.” Organization, 21(2): 159–177.

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