Workshop Series: Silvia Gherardi
Managerial and organizational studies have rediscovered the concept of practice in recent years. The term has spread in such a rapid and unnoticed way that it has generated a body of research bearing the acronym PBS (Practice-Based Studies) almost from nothing. In this introductive seminar I shall treat the rapid diffusion of the practice concept as evidence of the power intrinsic to the central concept of practice. In fact, the greater diffusion and acceptance of Practice-Based Studies (PBS) has been accompanied by concerns concerning the loss of critical power of the practice concept to more orthodox accounts shaped by assumptions of rationalism and cognitivism in organization studies. We often find the term 'practice' being assumed to be synonymous with 'routine', or taken to be a generic equivalent of 'what people really do', without addressing the link between practice and knowledge, its original and distinctive critique of the modernist conceptions of knowledge (i.e. practice as the generative source of knowledge), and the methodological problems that its use implies.
Silvia Gherardi is full professor of sociology of work at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Trento, Italy, where she has been Director of the Research Unit on Communication, Organizational Learning, and Aesthetics (www.unitn.it/rucola) since 1993. Areas of interest include the exploration of different "soft" aspects of knowing at work and in organizations, with a peculiar emphasis for communicative, emotional, symbolic, and linguistic aspects of organizational process. Her last book (How to conduct a practice-based study: problems and methods, Edward Elgar, 2012) is devoted to the discussion of methodologies for the empirical study of learning and knowing in working practices.