Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management.

Publication Details

5th Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies. 59th Annual Conference of the International Council for Small Business. Dublin, Ireland (June). Dublin, 2014.


Western literature in management/organisation studies focuses primarily on gender issues that affect inequalities experienced by women at work. Adopting, in some cases, critical and feminist theoretical positions, the gender debate unfolds questions on the prevailing male discourse that is dominant in management and business organisations. Most of these theoretical assumptions tend to influence, subsequently, the way in which we understand the experiences of women in the developing or under-developed world. That is, these theoretical positions occupy a privileged voice upon which to write, describe and analyse the experiences of women in contexts where these Western discourses seem either alien or simply do not apply. This raises important questions on how we come to understand, for instance, indigenous women organisations, from within the language and local cultural experience that these women have. However important and relevant this literature is (critical and feminist), less has been said on how women, in the context of indigenous communities and organisations outside the dominant Western discourse of management/organisation, act and enact their organisation and working practices. Indeed, recent interest in postcolonial studies leaves open a window to address how indigenous women organise their work and their lives, challenging prevailing views on the subject. We think there is a need here to give voice to marginalised indigenous women, who are unrepresented in these debates. In this way, we certainly believe, we can start thinking of a truly plurivocal way of understanding and representing organisation (studies) that embraces discourses and practices from the periphery of the global (corporate/academic) centre. Henceforth, our principal objective in this paper is to engage with indigenous women organisations in order to contribute to this debate from a postcolonial and local perspective to suggest alternatives to traditional views on the subject or feminist/critical assumptions that neglect these discourses. For this purpose, we have conducted critical ethnographic research with cooperatives in Guatemala. More specifically, we have engaged in dialogue with Maya co-operatives run by indigenous women in the Sololá Department of Guatemala. In the rest of the paper, we start with a review of feminist (organisational) theorising, transitioning to a discussion of the importance of a postcolonial critical feminist approach to organisation studies. We then describe our methodology and present our ethnographic work, which considers the issues raised in our theoretical discussion. We close the paper with some reflections on the significance our work has for organisation studies and the importance of incorporating the view of indigenous ‘Third World women’ to the field.