Studies have shown how organisations create and use historical narratives to ‘outpast’ competing narratives, in attempts to claim authenticity through antiquity. We extend this work by exploring how organisations deliberately use historical narratives located in a vaguely defined past as a tool to craft legitimate historical narratives of a common cultural heritage. We theorise a link between strategic ambiguity and historical narratives by explaining how organisational actors construct a vaguely defined past and how historical narratives help these actors invent a cultural heritage. Conducting an in-depth case study of a culinary movement based in Istanbul, Turkey, we identify three forms of ambiguity that enable the construction of a common cultural heritage. These forms include ambiguity of origin, ambiguity of artefacts and ambiguity of ownership, and enable actors to concretise and perform a vaguely defined past in the present. Our study advances understanding of organisational uses of the past and suggests the term ‘strategic historical ambiguity’ to capture how ambiguity is deliberately used as a tool to craft legitimate historical narratives of a common cultural heritage.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 21. May 2020
- Culinary movement
- Cultural heritage
- Historical narratives
- Strategic ambiguity
- Strategic historical ambiguity
- Uses of the past