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Intersectionality and professional work in the life sciences: Constructing identities on the basis of affirmation, dis-identification, and professional distancing

Journal article
Authors Alexander Styhre
Published in Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
Volume 18
Issue 1
Pages 51-79
ISSN 2052-1499
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Pages 51-79
Language en
Keywords intersectionality, professionals, life science, identity.
Subject categories Business Administration


Intersectionality theory has primarily informed studies of how socially subordinate groups are bundled together into larger and more imprecise categories and how they consequently suffer from inadequate organizational practices. The general proposition of intersectionality theory, which holds that social identities and subjectivities are composed of heterogeneous and at times even contradictory and/or colliding elements, leading to fragmented yet coherent, or at least functional, subject-positions, is applicable to a broader set of actors and organizational settings, including professionals and elites. A study of life science researchers at small-sized life science companies demonstrates that this group operates in a domain that includes a variety of norms, beliefs, and practices, deriving from adjacent institutional domains and organizations, and that the members of this group craft images of themselves on the basis of combinations of recognition and dis-identification and of distancing themselves from, for example, academic research institutions, the so-called big pharma, and innovation system agencies. An intersectionality theory view thus invites a more detailed understanding of how professional identities and their ethos are constructed on the basis of heterogeneous resources and existing institutional and organizational arrangements, in turn having implications for, for instance, life science innovation.

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