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Uneasy bedfellows? The co-optation of religious practices by organizations (RDF20/BL/EIS/BURTON)

  • Full or part time

    Prof R Beadle
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 24, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Religion and organization are often uneasy bedfellows. Scholars have argued that religion in organizations has become subordinate to secularization (Swatos & Christiano, 1999) and religion and the logic of the market are irreconcilable (Greenwood, et al, 2011). And yet, religion continues to play a central role in family business research (eg, Holt, 2018), CSR research (eg, Jamali & Sdiani, 2013), and research in business ethics (Rashid & Idbrahim, 2008), to name a few.

Despite studies on religion and organization continuing to be published in high-ranked journals, we continue to know very little about the co-optation of management practices steeped in religious (or spiritual) traditions. Buddhist Mindfulness, Christian discernment and Quaker-inspired servant leadership are all contemporary examples of practices co-opted by organisations, often in the pursuit of instrumental ends.

Thus, the project seeks to examine how leaders and managers (of all faiths and none) make sense of co-opted practices in their everyday work, and we explore how meaning is formed, shaped and sustained (eg, normatively and instrumentally) and the tensions that arise in the process of sensemaking.

Following Tracey’s (2012) seminal paper in Academy of Management Annals calling for a religious turn in management and organization, scholarship is now ‘taking religion seriously’. Thus, this project seeks to explore a novel and exciting new pathway for research at the intersection of religion, ethics, work, and organization.

Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:

- Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
- Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
- Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see: https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/research/postgraduate-research-degrees/how-to-apply/

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF20/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 24 January 2020.

Start Date: 1 October 2020.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide where a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full fees.


Chi Vu, M., & Burton, N. (accepted). Mindful reflexivity: Unpacking the process of self-transformation in Mindfulness and Discernment. Management Learning.

Burton, N., Kavanagh, D & Brigham, M. (accepted). Religion, organization, and company law: a case study of a Quaker business, Management & Organizational History.

Burton, N & Bainbridge, J. (2019). Spiritual discernment, the incorporated organization, and corporate law: the case of Quaker business method, Religions 10(1), p35.

Muers, R., & Burton, N. (2018), Can We Take the Religion out of Religious Decision-Making? The Case of Quaker Business Method, Philosophy of Management. 1-12. In press.

Burton, N., Koning, J., and Muers, R. (2018). Organisational ethnography and religious organisations: the case of Quaker decision-making practice, Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 15(4), 349-367.

Robson, A. & Beadle, R., (2019). Institutions and moral agency: the case of Scottish Banking. Journal of Institutional Economics. 15, 5, p. 845-859.

Moore, G., Beadle, R. & Rowlands, A., 2014, Catholic Social Teaching and the Firm. Crowding in Virtue: a MacIntyrean Approach to Business Ethics. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. 88, 4, p. 779-805.

Beadle, R. & Knight, K.,2012. Virtue and meaningful work. Business Ethics Quarterly. 22, 2, p. 433-450.

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