Paying Attention to Tension: Towards a New Understanding of the Organizational Mechanisms Enabling Sexual Harassment

Bontu Lucie Guschke, Beate Sløk-Andersen

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Research on sexual harassment in professional settings has enabled a conceptualization of transgressive behaviour by naming, defining, and mapping the phenomenon. Yet, the problem shows little sign of being eliminated. This article mobilizes a perspective of dis/organization to shed new light on the continuous (re)production of sexual harassment, suggesting that organizational contradictions create tension within which sexual harassment is enabled and (re)produced. The study employs a tension-centred research approach and draws on empirical data from two different professional settings in Denmark, namely academia and the military. Attending to the tension that arises in the organizing of these professional settings, the article identifies four contradictions that enable sexual harassment. Connecting these findings to the work of Butler, the article argues that navigating such contradictions is deeply entangled in the un/doing of professional subjects, thus making it a sensitive matter, not least for newcomers striving for intelligibility in a new professional setting. In addition to this contribution to the field of sexual harassment research, the article proposes the concept of un/doing as an analytical tool to critically examine tension and contradictions in the realm of dis/organization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEphemera: Theory & politics in organization
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)27-55
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Sexual harrasment
  • Tension
  • Subjectivity
  • Un/doing
  • Intelligibility
  • Killjoy
  • Professions
  • Dis/organization

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