Academics are still practitioners

15 March 2011

The discussion regarding forms and types of practitioners continues with John Postill.

As I say on his site:

Hello John,

Yes, I think you are on to something there. It seems to make sense that when we are talking of practitioners we do need to be clearer about locating them, as you suggest by some statement as to their “field and practice-theoretical account of their work”. Much of the time we might infer this from the context, but that isn’t always the case.

I’m somewhat enamoured by the strategy-as-practice. Within that perspective there has been (since quite early on) a view that folk such as academics, consultants, and others are practitioners within the “field’ of strategising practices. As a result, when talking about practitioners of strategy, all those in the field (be they managers, academics, or whatever) are (hopefully) considered.

This makes me thing that—as fields may overlap—we might also usefully distinguish the centrality of practitioners in their field. I’ve found Unruh (1979, 1980) a useful framework in that regard. The notion of outsiders, tourists, regulars, and insiders helps me locate practitioners. In my experience some young academics when working in the management field are more like tourists than regulars (let alone insiders) and I suspect that few academics end up being insiders within the field of management practice.

I don’t know if I’ve said it already, but John is one of the writers on practices who has been rather influential in my thinking (and whose site media/anthropology has help to clarify and number of things for me).


Unruh, D. R. (1979). Characteristics and types of participation in social worlds. Symbolic Interaction, 2(2), 115–130. doi:10.1525/si.1979.2.2.115

Unruh, D. R. (1980). The nature of social worlds. The Pacific Sociological Review, 23(3), 271-296.