Matter That Embodies: Agentive flesh and working bodies/selves

Nancy Harding, Sarah Gilmore, Jackie Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (SciVal)
100 Downloads (Pure)


The post-Cartesian ‘material turn’ in management and organization studies understands that bodies are far more than vehicles that enable work to be undertaken, but are agentive actors in the constitution of work and working selves. This leads to the need for more empirically-derived understanding of the agency of flesh in the performative corporealization of working, embodied selves. We met this challenge through adapting feminist, posthuman research methods for a study of the materialities and materialization of working bodies. The study takes forward Judith Butler’s and Karen Barad’s theories of performativity by reading them through each other, and introducing flesh as an agentive actor in each moment-to-moment move. In paying close attention to the speech of supposedly ‘dumb flesh’ we show how flesh resists its negation and itself imposes control on the worker. We coin the term ‘body/flesh’ and illuminate how bodies are active and agentive, constituting corporeal/izing working selves in somewhat unexpected ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-668
Number of pages20
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Judith Butler
  • Karen Barad
  • bodies
  • embodiment
  • flesh
  • materialities
  • performativity
  • working bodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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