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

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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Submitted on : Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 12:16:23 PM
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Gazi Islam. Finding a Space for Story: Sensemaking, Stories and Epistemic Impasse. Journal of Organizational Change Management, Emerald, 2013, 26 (1), pp.29-48. ⟨10.1108/09534811311307897⟩. ⟨hal-00969278⟩



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