Politics of Meaning in Categorizing Innovation: How Chefs Advanced Molecular Gastronomy by Resisting the Label

Barbara Slavich*, Silviya Svejenova Velikova, M. Pilar Opazo, Gerardo Patriotta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This study examines innovators’ efforts to conceptualize and communicate their novel work through categorization. Specifically, we view category formation as a controversial process of meaning making, which we theorize through the concept of “politics of meaning” and operationalize through a social semiotics approach. By analyzing the labeling controversies underlying a new culinary style publicized as “molecular gastronomy”, we find that innovators’ efforts at categorization unfold along four consecutive stages: experimenting with a new style, communicating the new style, contesting the dominant label, and legitimating the category meaning. Our study suggests that a new category’s dominant label can substantially deviate from the innovators’ intended denotations, yet nonetheless bring that category forward by triggering public negotiations around its meaning, which lead to categorical deepening and legitimation. By putting forward a “politics of meaning” view on categorizing innovation, this work advances our understanding of the connection between labeling and category formation in the context of innovation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume41
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)267-290
Number of pages24
ISSN0170-8406
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: April 12, 2019

Keywords

  • Categorization
  • Haute cuisine
  • Innovation
  • Innovators
  • Labeling
  • Politics of meaning
  • Social semiotics

Cite this