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Narrative Change Management in American Studies

A Pragmatic Reading


Silke Schmidt

Management means getting things done. How can research on the theory and practice of management help American Studies move forward? This book offers a pragmatic approach to bridging the gap between the humanities and business studies. Based on a critical reading of the disciplinary cultures of American Studies and Business School education, the book analyses narratives of U.S. management theorists and practitioners, including Peter F. Drucker, Mary Cunningham, and John P. Kotter. The stories help readers acquire effective management and leadership tools for application-oriented humanities in the digital age.

"With her outsider perspective on the discourse in management research and application, Schmidt proposes interesting questions that can turn into fruitful research issues in Business Studies and its interdisciplinary exchange with American Studies. I hope this book falls on open ears." – Evelyn Korn

"Schmidt did pioneering work by taking the risk of entering novel terrain to show new paths for the further development of American Studies." – Carmen Birkle

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3 Narrating Cultural Change


Image: “Wondrous World of Atomis“. Source: Erlemann 81, my translation. Image by Peter Evers.

This comic is employed by Anita Erlemann in her article “Inszenierte Erkenntnis” (“Staged Insight”) on the scientific culture of physics. 19 It illustrates what insider physicists and students know very well: physicists have a special sense of humor (Erlemann 80). As one interviewee in the ←65 | 66→study explains: “These jokes [by physicists] are not funny. You can only understand them if you have a special sense of humor. … How do you imagine mathematicians and physicists to be like? Yes, exactly like people who laugh about these kinds of jokes. Not only are they not funny. They are not even vulgar. They are simply bad jokes” (qtd. in Erlemann 80, my translation).20

This example from physics shows how much humor goes along with disciplinary knowledge and culture. Of course, all fields in the academy have their insider jokes and cartoons.21 Very often, we are most amused about but also puzzled by the jokes of other fields. Sometimes they cater to our stereotypes, at other times they are simply strange. This indicates how much disciplinary socialization is related to our individual organizational cultures and the way in which they shape our understanding of truth and knowledge.

When defining the concept of “discipline,” the wordplay in the title of Markus Arnold and Roland Fischer’s edition Disziplinierungen (Disciplinings) is revealing. The term “discipline” is derived from the Latin disciplina/discipulus meaning pupil (“Discipline...

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