The purpose of this paper is to investigate the operation of classification mechanisms in organizational life, and how they construct the skills and knowledge of initially marginalized client groups.
The paper is based on an ethnographically inspired case study of a Swedish labour market procedure, which was designed to validate the skills and knowledge of non-western immigrant job-seekers. Qualitative data were generated through observations, in-depth interviews and document analysis.
The study found that, contrary to policy-makers’ intentions, the validation procedure ended up dissociating the non-western job-seekers’ heterogeneous experiences, skills and knowledge from the organizing processes of the labour market, displacing them beyond the boundaries of legitimate knowledge, and reproducing their marginalized position on the labour market. As non-western skills and knowledge were found unclassifiable according to the validation procedure, they were deemed too different and monstrous.
The research approach and the specific institutional context of Swedish immigration and labour market policy means that the research results are not readily generalizable to other empirical contexts. Therefore, studies outside of Sweden are needed to generate knowledge about similar policies in other countries.
The classification of skills and knowledge and the organizing of difference does not primarily require new tools and methods, but a whole new perspective, which recognizes the multiplicity and heterogeneity of unusual skills and knowledge as an important part of labour market integration.
The paper examines the monstrous aspects of classification mechanisms within the empirical context of labour market integration efforts, which is hitherto underexplored in the literature on the management of difference and diversity.
The author wish to thank the anonymous reviewers and the two editors for their valuable help and suggestions throughout the review process, as well as Barbara Czarniawska for her constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper.
CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited