The sacred canopy: Narratives, stories and culture in a Malaysian organisation.

AHMAD, Che Mahzan. (2001). The sacred canopy: Narratives, stories and culture in a Malaysian organisation. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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The starting point for this research is the importance of narrative in our life. Many scholars regard it as the organising principle by which people organise their experience in, knowledge about, and transaction in the social world. Indeed, authoring and co-authoring narratives have been cited as among the most important communicative actions in an organisation. This study adapts Fisher's (1987) narrative paradigm to explore how organisational members view their reality. Human beings in this view are seen as homo narrans --- both as storytellers and objects of storytelling. Narratives act as vehicles through which organisational members can offer definitions and explanations of their work life. They act as a metacode transmitting shared meaning. As a consequence, members establish definitional boundaries through which they judge and understand the situation at hand. Recognising the limitations of this paradigm, the analysis in this research study adds Pacanowsky's (1983) application of Geertz's (1973) cultural insights to organisational life. To Pacanowsky, organisational culture is the residue of employees' performances. To Geertz, such performances are an ensemble of texts.In summary, the following main perspectives informed this research: a) Human beings are storytellers b) Culture is the root metaphor of organisational life c) Organisational culture is a text d) A text must be read and interpreted in the meaning-making process.To reflect this theoretical perspective, hermeneutics was used as the method of inquiry. A series of in-depth interviews were conducted over time to gather data on the use and content of narratives within a Malaysian organisation, Palmyra.During a period of change, stories and narratives are often 'emotional' in nature. This is understandable as change brings a new arrangement of reality. At Palmyra, an organisation that deals primarily with language and literature, the narratives and stories revolved around what was called the 're-inventing programme'. Besides repositioning staff and offices, management aimed to 'bring religion back to the workplace' and this became an important agenda in the whole planned change. This approach to organisational change views change as a matter of body, mind and soul. The stability of nafs (the inner self) is regarded as important, and organisation is seen as a moral problem. This research shows how this approach can be understood in the light of the tawhidic paradigm. The implementation of the change programme brought many important undercurrents (shadows) to the fore, and these were reflected in the narratives, which emerged. Tribalism or parochialism was one of them. The organisation members who felt displaced responded through various means. Among others, they utilised the power of literature and hidden transcripts. Many ancient and classicaltexts were given new interpretations. Various forms of halus (refined and indirect) were identified as ways of communicating their unhappiness. While sharing many of the themes, which can be identified in European and American research on organisational change, these forms of resistance used methods and symbols, which were distinctively Malaysian. This research study makes a number of important contributions to organisational communication studies. In particular:1. It adds new knowledge to an understudied area in organisational communication, namely the analysis and significance of stories in the workplace.2. It also contributes to another underrepresented area of study, namely the religious aspects of organisational communication culture.3. It demonstrates the value of qualitative research methods in organisational communication studies in Malaysia, where previously quantitative methods have been dominant.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Hartley, Peter
Thesis advisor - Mcauley, John
Thesis advisor - Doherty, Kathy
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2001.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:23
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 12:44

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