Title

Places of Discomfort

Submission Type

Paper Abstract Submission

Symposium Selection

Post-neutrality librarianship

Keywords

Feminism; norm critical; resistance; post-neutrality; feminist killjoying; accountability

Abstract

Places of Discomfort

(Revised shareable version 01.10.2021)

"Librarians cannot be unbiased neutral information professionals and passionate advocates for better communities” so says the abstract submission text. This is a call for re-politicizing the library and the librarianship. The presentation will suggest this through everyday examples of norm critical practices and connect theses pratices with becomming a ‘feminist killjoy’ (Ahmed,2017).

A norm-critical approach to understanding the post-neutrality librarianship is linked to activism such as the feminist killjoy, since it focuses on calling out and critiquing social inequities, showing that: “”What is normal” and ”who we are” are really social constructs maintained only through the Othering, marginalization, or silencing of other possible worlds and selves” (Kumashiro,2002:57). The presentation includes examples of norm critical leadership practices practiced by 18 managers and activists in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The empirical field is based on the Nordic Network as well as everyday leadership practices as a former manager and now chief consultant at Gentofte Central Library.

The research within the field of diversity is often occupied with the ‘managing’ of diversity (Murh, Holck & Villeseche,2016) focusing human resource management on diversity largely as a business case, improving the organization’s profile, or on financial interest. This can make the political issues of inequality and discriminating power structures invisible (Ahmed,2012; Plotnikof et al. forthcoming). A norm-critical approach to diversity management and organizing twists the focus from diversity as something (a difference) to be ‘managed’ and addresses the structural issues of inequality, thus arguing for reflexions on re-politicizing the library space and librarianship practices. Feminist organization studies addresses the reproduction of dominant norms and within this discourse enables activist courses of actions ie. resistance and causing trouble and discomfort, which points to the fact that a norm-critical practitioner often inhabits a less valued place in the organization (Ahmed,2012;Rosenberg,2002).

To point out that norms are excluding citizens in organizations situates everybody (within the norm) in an uncomfortable, even unhappy space. As Kumashiro points out: “[...] the focus on difference fails to change that which is not different - namely, the norm” (Kumashiro,2002:57). If we want an organization to be sensitive to diversity, conscious of its post-neutral position and practices, a norm-critical approach to leadership and organising is called for; one that can disrupt the very frameworks we use to make sense of ourselves. The tension of this unhappy space has the potential of creating organizational learning (Bromseth,2010; Elkjaer,2017).

The presentation will be based on an assumption that neutrality is ingrained in the organisation expressed through organisational narratives and practices produced by library employees and often linked to notions of professionalism. Therefore, when we question or trouble the self identified notion of neutrality by using a word as ‘re-politicizing’ we cause institutional instability.

I will argue that unconcsious biases in organisations continue to create barriers of participation and reproduce structures that lead to both inequality and discrimination - causing both invisibility and hypervisibility for non-conforming bodies (Ahmed (2012), Kumashiro (2002) & Rosenberg (2002)). Furthermore I will explore how a norm critical approach can create a more reflective daily practice and increase critical attention to the library’s reproduction of norms, thus challenging unconscious biases.

To point out that norms are excluding citizens in organizations situates everybody (within the norm) in an uncomfortable, even unhappy space. If we want an organization to be sensitive to diversity and critical/reflective of unconscious biases, a norm-critical approach to leadership and organising is called for; one that can disrupt the very frameworks we use to make sense of ourselves. The tension of this unhappy space has the potential of creating organizational learning (Bromseth,2010; Ahmed,2017, Elkjaer,2017).

The presentation will thus investigate how organizational bias is linked to power and privilege and suggest and explore how norm criticism can be a method for uncovering the blank spots through facilitating places of discomfort and destabilising actions in order to create change and equal participation. Therefore, my work focuses on:

  • Challenging narratives of neutrality and its connection to arguments of professionalism

  • Examples of how norm-criticism and feminist killjoying is practiced, performed, and organized – in the local organizations

  • And following the feminist and norm critical practices, what are the different forms of resistance to change that we meet

Key words: Feminism, norm critical, resistance, post-neutrality, feminist killjoying, accountability

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Places of Discomfort

Places of Discomfort

(Revised shareable version 01.10.2021)

"Librarians cannot be unbiased neutral information professionals and passionate advocates for better communities” so says the abstract submission text. This is a call for re-politicizing the library and the librarianship. The presentation will suggest this through everyday examples of norm critical practices and connect theses pratices with becomming a ‘feminist killjoy’ (Ahmed,2017).

A norm-critical approach to understanding the post-neutrality librarianship is linked to activism such as the feminist killjoy, since it focuses on calling out and critiquing social inequities, showing that: “”What is normal” and ”who we are” are really social constructs maintained only through the Othering, marginalization, or silencing of other possible worlds and selves” (Kumashiro,2002:57). The presentation includes examples of norm critical leadership practices practiced by 18 managers and activists in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The empirical field is based on the Nordic Network as well as everyday leadership practices as a former manager and now chief consultant at Gentofte Central Library.

The research within the field of diversity is often occupied with the ‘managing’ of diversity (Murh, Holck & Villeseche,2016) focusing human resource management on diversity largely as a business case, improving the organization’s profile, or on financial interest. This can make the political issues of inequality and discriminating power structures invisible (Ahmed,2012; Plotnikof et al. forthcoming). A norm-critical approach to diversity management and organizing twists the focus from diversity as something (a difference) to be ‘managed’ and addresses the structural issues of inequality, thus arguing for reflexions on re-politicizing the library space and librarianship practices. Feminist organization studies addresses the reproduction of dominant norms and within this discourse enables activist courses of actions ie. resistance and causing trouble and discomfort, which points to the fact that a norm-critical practitioner often inhabits a less valued place in the organization (Ahmed,2012;Rosenberg,2002).

To point out that norms are excluding citizens in organizations situates everybody (within the norm) in an uncomfortable, even unhappy space. As Kumashiro points out: “[...] the focus on difference fails to change that which is not different - namely, the norm” (Kumashiro,2002:57). If we want an organization to be sensitive to diversity, conscious of its post-neutral position and practices, a norm-critical approach to leadership and organising is called for; one that can disrupt the very frameworks we use to make sense of ourselves. The tension of this unhappy space has the potential of creating organizational learning (Bromseth,2010; Elkjaer,2017).

The presentation will be based on an assumption that neutrality is ingrained in the organisation expressed through organisational narratives and practices produced by library employees and often linked to notions of professionalism. Therefore, when we question or trouble the self identified notion of neutrality by using a word as ‘re-politicizing’ we cause institutional instability.

I will argue that unconcsious biases in organisations continue to create barriers of participation and reproduce structures that lead to both inequality and discrimination - causing both invisibility and hypervisibility for non-conforming bodies (Ahmed (2012), Kumashiro (2002) & Rosenberg (2002)). Furthermore I will explore how a norm critical approach can create a more reflective daily practice and increase critical attention to the library’s reproduction of norms, thus challenging unconscious biases.

To point out that norms are excluding citizens in organizations situates everybody (within the norm) in an uncomfortable, even unhappy space. If we want an organization to be sensitive to diversity and critical/reflective of unconscious biases, a norm-critical approach to leadership and organising is called for; one that can disrupt the very frameworks we use to make sense of ourselves. The tension of this unhappy space has the potential of creating organizational learning (Bromseth,2010; Ahmed,2017, Elkjaer,2017).

The presentation will thus investigate how organizational bias is linked to power and privilege and suggest and explore how norm criticism can be a method for uncovering the blank spots through facilitating places of discomfort and destabilising actions in order to create change and equal participation. Therefore, my work focuses on:

  • Challenging narratives of neutrality and its connection to arguments of professionalism

  • Examples of how norm-criticism and feminist killjoying is practiced, performed, and organized – in the local organizations

  • And following the feminist and norm critical practices, what are the different forms of resistance to change that we meet

Key words: Feminism, norm critical, resistance, post-neutrality, feminist killjoying, accountability