June 30, 2021

A Year of Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Performance and Business

CIH Spring Newsletter 2021
Hanging Globe image

Photo by Jorge Orozco on Unsplash. Quilotoa, Ecuador.

While it is no secret that the pandemic caused major shifts in all areas of the University, we at the Performance and Business Research Working Group have found moments to express gratitude for the new wide world of Zoom. Our vision for our third year as a CIH-funded working group was to host discussions featuring a researcher in theater or performance studies and a researcher in a business field such as finance, organizational theory, or strategy for a discussion on a theme relevant to both of their work. These scholars “came” from distant campuses to dialogue with us. We hoped to prompt scholars who may not have read each other’s work but who tackle related questions to engage with each other and with our working group members in order to plant a new field of research on performance and business. This year exceeded our expectations in that we were able to host scholarly conversations with top researchers and recruit new members to the working group from across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, which might not have been as possible without the global shift to virtual meetings.

Our first discussion of the year explored the theme “Performance and Value” and featured scholars Dr. Shane Boyle (School of English and Drama, Queen Mary University, London) and Dr. R. Edward Freeman (Darden School of Business, University of Virginia), with discussant Dr. David Dick (Philosophy, University of Calgary). Boyle’s research examines the political economy of theatre and the role of performance in social movements. Freeman is best known for his award-winning book, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Their intersecting specialties allowed us to examine the difference between business and capitalism, the meaning of value in both these frameworks, and performance's capacity to reveal each system's inner mechanisms. One of the key insights from the discussion was that both theater and business are forms that allow people to create value together that could not be created alone. 

Our second event of the year focused on “Improvisation and Performance at Work,” with a lively discussion between performance studies scholar, Dr. Sarah Saddler (Department of Fine and Performing Arts, Baruch College CUNY), and business scholar, Dr. Dusya Vera (Bauer College of Business, University of Houston), with facilitation from University of Calgary assistant professor of Drama, Christine Brubaker. In this discussion, we learned how businesses use theater training and improvisation in corporate settings, where improvisation serves as a metaphor for creativity and innovation as well as a method for managing uncertainty.

In February, our third event of the year turned to “The Role of Performance in Entrepreneurial Imagination Inside and Outside the University.” Our discussion featured Dr. Jon McKenzie (StudioLab, Department of Literatures in English, Cornell University) and Dr. Alexander Kier (Carson College of Business, Washington State University-Vancouver), with discussant Barry Wylant (Architecture, Planning and Landscape, University of Calgary). This discussion expanded our understanding of design thinking and its relation to entrepreneurship. McKenzie’s StudioLab provided a model for using performance in the classroom to foster design thinking, while Kier’s research on imaginativeness highlighted the importance of teams.

We tied up the year with an interdisciplinary dialogue on “Organizational Ritual” with Dr. Ronald Grimes (Department of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University) and Dr. Nelson Phillips (Innovation and Strategy, Imperial College Business School, London), with discussant Dr. Roy Suddaby (Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria). Our discussion explored the connections between ritual in religious and business contexts and debated ritual's relationship to power within organizations. Although those with the most authority often control an organization's rituals, Grimes reminded us that anyone can invent rituals. Grimes’ work has been foundational in our research over the past several years and Phillips not only authored one of the first articles on organizational ritual but is also a Haskayne alumnus, so this was a very anticipated event and perfect way to end the year.

Centre for Science, Technology, Environment, and Medicine Studies

As a group we have been doing some research in the use of the history and philosophy of science as a strategy for teaching scientific concepts. This strategy does a number of things for students. First, it ‘humanizes science.’ This is important because this humanization seems to attract and retain traditionally underserved populations in the science. Second, it helps students become more effectively ‘science literate.’ They understand the nature of science, its strengths and more important, its limitations. 

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Calgary Institute for the Humanities Newsletter Spring 2021