Changing the Memory of Suffering: An Organizational Aesthetics of the Dark Side

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Abstract

This paper addresses processes of subjection and abjection as expressed in organizational and collective memory. It complements recent developments in organizational memory studies by demonstrating how the dark side of organization has been subjected to what Susan Sontag calls a ‘collective instruction’ process that normalizes how this dark side is understood, or marginalized. The paper argues that history today is often represented as kitsch and offers a method of aesthetic ‘juxtaposition’ of visual artefacts that together with a detailed reading enables researchers to critically challenge this organization of memory and reintegrate abjected material. The method is exemplified by juxtaposing the iconic World War II photo of a little Jewish boy leaving his home with his hands in the air during the Nazi clearances of the Warsaw Ghetto and Paul Klee’s iconic painting of an angel in terror, Angelus Novus, painted in 1920 just after World War I. The analysis demonstrates how history tends to be organized by a majoritarian system – in this case what has been termed ‘the Holocaust industry’ – through collective instruction in how to interpret events, and outlines alternative ways for exposing and resisting this process, resulting in the creation of counter-narratives. This analytical strategy confirms that organizational aesthetics resides at the heart of what is political.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume35
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)279-302
Number of pages24
ISSN0170-8406
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

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