Reflections on the role of bemusement in institutional disruption

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In this essay I reflect on the disruptive potential of bemusement. When people are bemused, we feel confused or bewildered. We can also feel wry pleasure, especially if we are bemused by something perplexing, that confounds expectations or norms. I explore how the affective tensions of bemusement can unsettle persons’ emotional investment in institutional order. I argue that disruption arises from surfacing the absurdities that are part of what is accepted as normal, and I illustrate this with a discussion of the ‘Dismaland Bemusement Park’. I assert the importance of confounding stability, order and rationality by recognizing the parallel existence of confusion, absurdity and illogics. Practical access to these parallel dynamics arises from the art of cultural subversion. Such an art both politicizes and gives pleasure to those involved in creative disruption; and it embraces the ensuing confusion as a critique – as a potentially insightful twist on institutional order.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-284
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number3
Early online date31 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


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