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SCOS 2023 Conference: AUP welcomes 90 academics from 21 countries


On July 12–15, 2023, the MSc in International Management (MSIM) program of The American University of Paris hosted the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism (SCOS), the University’s first in-person conference convening post-pandemic. AUP professors Robert Earhart, Natalya Shiryaeva and Albert Cath, alongside MSIM candidate Isabelle Weber, were the members of the convening committee. 

SCOS is a global network of academics and practitioners who hail from a hugely diverse range of disciplines and professional backgrounds. As an organization, SCOS focuses on the interlinked issues of organizational symbolism, culture and change – articulated in the broadest possible sense and informed by a commitment to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary understandings of organization and management. This work draws from, among other things, organization studies, social anthropology, management, cultural studies, media studies, philosophy, history, politics and social psychology. SCOS was formed in 1981 as an autonomous working group of the European Group for Organizational Studies, but it has been an independent academic venture for over 25 yearly conferences. 

AUP welcomed more than 90 academics from 21 countries for three days of presentations, keynotes, workshops and discussions under the theme of “Ha(u)te Couture.” Participants presented paper abstracts that explored topics such as the “fashionable” organization, fashion as a form of cultural production, inclusion and exclusion in fashions and trends, inhabitant or ex-habitant notions of couture, aesthetics of organization, the “fabric” of organization, and poetics of organization.  

The conference explored conceptualizations of “fashion” from several different perspectives, asking questions such as: In what ways are the ideas of “fashion” a contested terrain? What are the subtle social, organizational and cultural differences in how we consider what is beautiful or fashionable and what is not? And who defines, determines and governs such decisions? These ideas encompass the tensions between empowerment and exploitation, high and low culture, fast and slow fashion, conspicuous consumption and deconsumption, shared popularity and individual expression, and the criteria of beauty and usefulness. These ideas have a profound effect on organization, management and culture. 

Keynote addresses were delivered by: 

  • Madeleine Czigler, a professor of global communications at AUP, who opened the conference with an overview of the conference themes and a primer on understanding couture and its popular representations, contrasted with its underlying practices and meanings.  

  • Dr. Monika Kostera, who offered reflections on the history of SCOS and a loving tribute to those SCOS attendees who are no longer with us after the four years since the last conference.  

  • Dana Thomas, award winning journalist and best-selling author, who reflected on how couture is represented in fast fashion and mass consumption and on the economic and managerial practices that maintain and support the global commercial fashion industry, during her keynote address, “Haute Couture: A Mirror of Our Times.” 

  • Dr. Hugo Letiche, a professor of critical management studies and qualitative research methods and a prolific researcher, whose keynote “Fashion is Individuation, But Which…?” expanded the conversation by considering notions of fashion and identity while problematizing those of identity and individuation, exploring the paradoxical effects of what it means to fully invest in one’s own identity and self-expression, considering personal, social, organizational and psychological influencing factors. 

In addition to the keynotes, there were 65 papers presented over 24 breakout sessions as well as 10 workshops covering a variety of topics. One breakout session, which was presented by MSIM faculty Robert Earhart and Albert Cath and called “Stratégie a la Mode,” included papers presented by MSIM students Heather Strassel, on the “Paradox of Homeless Chic,” and Karolina Krakowiak, on the theme of being “Fashionably Separated,” both of which will be chapters in a forthcoming edited volume by the MSIM Press. That the students were welcomed as colleagues at a conference for career academics and doctoral students speaks to the quality of academic and professional preparation undertaken by them both. 

The convening committee gives its deepest thanks and appreciation to all the AUP students who made this conference possible. One major contributor was MSIM candidate Isabelle Weber, who took on the role of the Conference Coordinator and worked tirelessly for months before and during the conference to make it a successful event. Likewise, huge thanks to MSIM students Karolina Krakowiak, Heather Strassel, Enitsedom Fullilove-Thigpen, and Grant Weekes – as well as Strategic Brand Management student Kanhchana Hak and undergraduate student Gazelle Simmons – all of whom helped immensely with their time and energy when organizing logistics, session moderation, and registration. 

To learn more about the 2023 SCOS Conference, please visit the conference archive.