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Relations of subordination: Canada’s first indigenous dean of a law school

James D. Grant (School of Business, Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 18 March 2024

Issue publication date: 16 April 2024




The goal was emancipatory, to characterise and dislodge oppressive management practices, to allow for the possibility of seeking an alternative organisational construction free of postcolonial/subaltern subordination and discrimination in a local, well-documented narrative.


The study was informed by a postcolonial/subaltern perspective and drew on the employment experience of an Aboriginal woman, Canada’s first Indigenous Dean of a law school. The researcher employed a combination of case study and critical discourse analysis with the aim of advancing rich analyses of the complex workings of power and privilege in sustaining Western, postcolonial relations.


The study made several conclusions: first, that the institution, a medium-sized Canadian university, carefully controlled the Indigenous subaltern to remake her to be palatable to Western sensibilities. Second, the effect of this control was to assimilate her, to subordinate her Indigeneity and to civilise in a manner analogous to the purpose of Indian residential schools. Third, that rather than management’s action being rational and neutral, focused on goal attainment, efficiency and effectiveness, it was an implicit moral judgement based on her race and an opportunity to exploit her value as a means for the university’s growth and status.


Through a postcolonial/subaltern perspective, this study demonstrated how management practices reproduced barriers to the participation of an Indigenous woman and the First Nations community that an organisation was intended to serve. The study demonstrated how a Western perspective – that of a university’s administration, faculty and staff – was privileged, or taken for granted, and the Indigenous perspective subordinated, as the university remained committed to the dispossession of Indigenous knowledge and values.



Grant, J.D. (2024), "Relations of subordination: Canada’s first indigenous dean of a law school", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 32-49.



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