Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management Group Launch Seminar

Social action as “a total social phenomenon”: Comparing leadership challenges facing community-based labour organisations in China and Japan – Dr Huiyan Fu ‘Learning to Undo Gender’ – Professor Elisabeth Kelan

  • Wed 28 Nov 18

    12:00 - 14:30

  • Colchester Campus

    Essex Business School, NTC.3.02

  • Event speaker

    Dr Huiyan Fu, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Professor Elisabeth Kelan, Professor of Leadership and Organisation

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Professor Philip Hancock

Seminar Aim

To introduce new colleagues, and new work taking place, in the recently formed Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management Group of Essex Business School.

Event Abstract 

'Social action as “a total social phenomenon” - Emerging at the peripheral of traditional labour politics, community-based labour organisations (CLOs) play an important role in filling a representation gap left by mainstream unions’ inability or unwillingness to organise precarious and vulnerable workers.

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, this paper sets out to compare CLOs in China and Japan by moving from broad national state-capital-labour relations to organisational strategies concerning leadership engagement with the state, mainstream unions, network building and workers.

Special emphasis is placed upon the complex process in which political, economic and cultural forces combine to impact on social action. Such an anthropologically informed approach is geared towards understanding CLOs and their leading actors as ‘a total social phenomenon’, with a view to showing the ‘non-romantic’ facets of leadership.   ‘Learning to Undo Gender’ - ‘Doing gender’ approaches are often seen as abstract, theoretical and inaccessible.

As a consequence, it is presumed that they have limited potential to create change in regard to gender equality.However as ‘doing gender’ focuses on mundane practices, those practices lend themselves to be communicated in comic strips.

I will discuss how findings from ethno graphic observations and interviews were transformed into comic strips and then used in learning.

It is suggested that comic strips create a Brechtian distancing effect, which allows learners to engage with emotionally charged topics that are recognisable yet appear non-threatening. Comic strips can thus function as a tool to illustrate doing and undoing gender approaches to facilitate learning and organisational change.


This is an open event; there is no need to book. Please feel free to attend and bring your colleagues, classmates and friends.

Speaker bios

Dr Huiyan Fu is a Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Essex Business School. She trained as a social anthropologist (DPhil, MPhil, Oxon) and her main research areas lie in precarious work (including the rising gig economy), discourse analysis, gender, emotional labour, intersectionality and critical leadership and management studies.

Elisabeth Kelan, PhD, is a Professor of Leadership and Organisation at Essex Business School, University of Essex. Her research focuses on women in leadership, men as change agents for gender equality, generations at work, and diversity and inclusion.

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