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Journal Articles Journal of Organizational Change Management Year : 2013

Finding a Space for Story: Sensemaking, Stories and Epistemic Impasse

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Gazi Islam

Abstract

The current study explores the role of stories in organizational sensemaking processes. Rather than positioning stories as one among many different sensemaking mechanisms, it is argued that stories allow a particular kind of sensemaking that is inherently openended, distinguishing it from theoretical and propositional explanations for organizational phenomena. Drawing on previous Foucaultian discussions of epistemes, I introduce the notions of epistemic impasse and epistemic spillover, arguing that cross-functional interaction can cause tensions between incompatible epistemic bases, and that stories can act as a mechanism to overcome such tensions. I illustrate this mechanism in an ethnographic, participant-observer study of a university student-support center, showing how storytelling led to an increasingly open although ultimately totalizing tendency within the center, thus demonstrating both the potentials and limits of using stories within organizations.
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Dates and versions

hal-00969278 , version 1 (02-04-2014)

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Gazi Islam. Finding a Space for Story: Sensemaking, Stories and Epistemic Impasse. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 2013, 26 (1), pp.29-48. ⟨10.1108/09534811311307897⟩. ⟨hal-00969278⟩

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