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Professor Emma Bell

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Professional biography

Emma Bell is Professor of Organisation Studies at the Open University.  Prior to joining the Open University in 2017, she was a professor at Keele University for five years. Before that she worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Warwick, Queen Mary University of London, University of Bath and Exeter University.  Emma is Associate Editor Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Emerita Editor of Management Learning and serves on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Learning & Education, Organization, Scandinavian Journal of Management and Human Relations. She is current Co-Vice Chair Research and Publications, British Academy of Management and Past Chair of the Critical Management Studies Division of the Academy of Management. Her early working life included a period as a graduate management trainee in the UK National Health Service. Recently, Emma has been involved in projects that explore craft work and the globalisation of management research. She recently led a project funded by the UK-India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI)  entitled 'Developing Empowering Methodologies in Management Research'. In 2020 she was awarded a Fellowship by the Academy of Social Sciences.

Research interests

Emma Bell’s contribution to organisation studies relies on the use of cultural and social theory to critically analyse complex managerial problems in society. She has published over 40 articles in international peer-reviewed journals in her field, in addition to several authored and edited books, as well as contributing chapters to research handbooks and edited collections.

Much of this work is centrally concerned with understanding how meaning is produced, disseminated and contested in organizations. Previous projects have focused on understanding the importance of religious and spiritual beliefs in shaping organisational cultures and leadership, how popular cultural representations of management and organisation shape perceptions of business in society, and using a practice-based approach to understand embodiment, materiality and learning in organisations. A commitment to qualitative inquiry runs throughout this research.

A key area of Emma’s work concerns the development of research methodology in the UK and internationally. Professor Bell is co-author of the textbook, Business Research Methods, with Alan Bryman and Bill Harley, published by Oxford University Press. This reflects her enduring interest in understanding the politics of academic knowledge production and seeking to expand the practices of doing research by developing more innovative methods. Recent projects in this area have been funded by the British Academy of Management (BAM) and the UK India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI). This work analyses the globalization and core-periphery politics of knowledge production and explores the potential for decolonizing and empowering research methodologies in the Indian context. She is also regularly invited to speak to groups of PhD students in the UK and internationally on topics ranging from visual methods and ethnography to research ethics.

This work is complemented by wider institutional roles through which Emma seeks to influence her profession and the development of her field, including as current Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal Management Learning, former Chair of the Critical Management Studies Division of US-based Academy of Management (AOM), current Vice-Chair Research and Publications of British Academy of Management, and by serving on a number of journal editorial boards.

Teaching interests

Emma’s teaching is in the areas of organisational behaviour, people management and the role of business in society. She takes a student-centred approach to the analysis of complex managerial problems, encouraging the creative integration of insights from sociology, anthropology, social psychology and management, and using case studies and films to encourage critical, reflexive analysis. She also regularly teaches doctoral students on programs in the UK and internationally, on issues related to research including visual methods, research ethics and qualitative analysis, and has contributed regularly to the Summer School on Research Methods in Management Studies, organized by Italian Academy of Business Administration and Management and the University of Naples.