Dr Olivier Ratle

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About me

I joined the University of the West of England in 2007, where I have been conveying a range of modules on the theory and practice of organising, and on research philosophies and methods, on undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs.

As a critical management academic, I bring to my teaching practice what Fournier and Grey (2000) identified as the constitutive principles of the Critical Management Studies community: an anti-performative stance, and a commitment to denaturalization and reflexivity. This means for me that I always encourage learners to question how power relations in society shape how we understand the world around us – how we take for granted certain problematic practices, and how dominant modes of understanding prevent us imagining alternative organisational futures.

One of the most interesting part of my work is helping students start and develop their dissertation project. Management and social research can be seen as the capacity to make, support and communicate an in-depth and complex argument within debates that have relevance to organisations and society. To learn about research skills is to learn about how to be a citizen who can contribute to important debates in a meaningful, rational, and enlightened manner. This resonates well with the University's motto: Light, Liberty, Learning. 

Area of expertise

Central to my research work is the idea that pluralism (whether philosophical, methodological, or theoretical) needs to be encouraged, nurtured, and protected by management academics, and that attempts to reduce the diversity of approaches to the study of management and organisations should be resisted. This fundamental idea is enacted in three related research programmes which organise and guide my efforts:

1)     The politics of methodology in management research. Studying the politics of methodology means studying why certain ways of doing research have cultural authority in society, whilst others are demeaned or treated with suspicion. I have written about rhetorical strategies featured in landmark methodological controversies (Ratle, 2011), about rhetorical practices that enable and sustain arguments against pluralism (Ratle, 2013), and on the way the work of Thomas Kuhn has been used to political ends by management and organisation scholars (Ratle, 2019). 

2)     The predicament of early-career academics. Early-career academics (ECAs) often find themselves in a difficult position. In an era characterised by austerity, and where universities are organised to operate in a quasi-market environment, early-career academics face conflicting and homogenising pressures. With Alexandra Bristow and Sarah Robinson, we have been studying the predicament of ECAs through different lenses. We have looked at the disjunctures experienced by ECAs when they enter the profession (Robinson et al., 2017), and we have analysed the nature of resistance enacted by ECAs, with an emphasis on how ECAs often manage to make a real and positive difference to their respective organisation (Bristow et al., 2017). In Bristow et al. (2019), we invented the concept of 'academic arrythmia' to make sense of a debilitating condition that results from the fact that ECAs' career paths are increasingly characterised by a 'temporal rigidification', and a fastening and intensification of the pace of the work. We have also analysed the different forms of violence that characterise the experience of ECAs, contributing to the critical study of universities, ECAs' experience, and symbolic violence in contemporary organisations (Ratle et al., 2020).

3)     Rethinking careers. Critical career studies is an emerging field that aims to challenge traditional prescribed roles, paths and trajectories, and through the study of the lived experiences of individuals, to contribute to rethinking how to approach and enact careers in contemporary societies. My co-edited book Doing Academic Careers Differently: Portraits of Academic Life (forth. in 2022) is claiming a stake on this emerging field.


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