Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

Working Paper 2021:10
The Internal Outsiders: A Standpoint and Intersectional Perspective on Gender and Powerin Organisations
Publication Year : 2021

Despite being at a disadvantage in terms of power, women often achieve success in the face of power. To understand the mechanisms underlying the exercise of agency in response to strong power structures, this paper describes power using Foucault’s (1982) conceptualisation as a socially constructed, fluid, and ongoing process that is omnipresent even at the grass-root level of human interaction. This notion of power is connected to the viewpoints of the disempowered, arguing that since power is socially constructed, the powerful and the disempowered are likely to view it from different perspectives. Thus there are multiple versions of power depending upon the position of the perceiver. We support this notion using the Standpoint theory (Harding, 1987; 2004). We argue that the perspectives of the disempowered are important to have a more objective account of power relations and understand the mechanisms underlying their responses in the face of power. However, it is argued that most definitions of power in organisational studies are focused on the perspective of the powerful with little or no mention of those upon whom power is being exercised (Salanick & Pfeffer, 1977). The disempowered are then defined using Intersectionality Theory (Crenshaw, 1991), based on the intersection of gender, religion, and class. We present a theoretical analysis of the argument coupled with anecdotal pieces of evidence that support the argument.

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