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Power relations in the production of historical context in disaster inquiry reporting

Mary A. Furey (Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada)
Lawrence T. Corrigan (Department of Accounting, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Jean Helms Mills (Department of Management, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada and Jyväskylä School of Business and Economics, Jyväskylä University, Jyväskylä, Finland)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 12 October 2020

Issue publication date: 31 May 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine the textual performance of the Ocean Ranger Disaster inquiry, thus responding to recent calls to “practice context” in historical writing. This study goes beyond the epistemological assumptions about the grounds for knowing about the past as the authors explore how history is produced in the context of power relations.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper imagines history-making as a storytelling performance. The authors combine critical historiography and critical sensemaking because these qualitative perspectives help us to understand the composition of the Ocean Ranger Royal Commission Report.

Findings

This case study makes a contribution within the genre of disaster inquiry reporting. The study explains how a formal historical record (the public inquiry report) may be created and how the report is related to aspects of power embedded in a writer’s sense of reality.

Social implications

The Ocean Ranger Disaster continues to be of tremendous importance to the people of Newfoundland, Canada. There have been numerous studies of the disaster, but these have been overwhelmingly focused on technical matters. To authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to consider the inquiry from an historical context perspective.

Originality/value

The study site enables reflection on a question not often asked in the management history literature: How can we critically understand the composition of an official disaster inquiry report in the context of its power relations?

Keywords

Citation

Furey, M.A., Corrigan, L.T. and Helms Mills, J. (2021), "Power relations in the production of historical context in disaster inquiry reporting", Journal of Management History, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 205-224. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMH-05-2020-0033

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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