Laureation address – Professor Silvia Gherardi
Professor Silvia Gherardi
Laureator: Professor Nic Beech
Friday 27 June 2014
Chancellor, it is my privilege to present Professor Silvia Gherardi for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
Professor Gherardi is a sociologist educated at Trento in Italy and at Exeter in the UK. She is Professor of the Sociology of Work at the University of Trento and is one of the founders and leaders of the interdisciplinary research unit RUCOLA (Research Unit on Communication, Organizational Learning and Aesthetics) which has had considerable international influence. Her work has been published widely in leading journals in English, French and Italian, and has become foundational for researchers in the field.
Her work has long been at the forefront of the ‘practice turn’ in the social sciences in general, and organisation studies in particular. She has challenged conventional academic boundaries, and has been instrumental in developing engagement between the humanities, sociological thought and research in organisations.
She has received honorary doctorates from a number of European universities, and she was recognised with distinguished honorary membership of the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) in 2008. EGOS honorary membership was created in 1998 ‘to honour and thank scholars who have made pioneering and lasting contributions both to the advancement of knowledge in the social sciences dealing with organisation’.
Her recent contributions, following her fellowship award in 2008, have continued to break new ground in the field and are widely cited. For example, she is co-author of, and centrally involved with, four of the most cited articles in the leading journal Management Learning, including the number one article. Moreover, there is much about Professor Gherardi that is revealed in the two words ‘involved with’ – she is a generous and sought-after collaborator and critical academic friend. But more of that later.
Recently, she has been particularly cited for her work on the development of aesthetics in practice theory, and most especially in developing an understanding of the role of ‘taste’ in relation to practices, learning and knowing. She has shown that as we move from ‘amateur’ to ‘professional’ in our learning communities, we develop our taste through ‘amatory attachment’ – we come to love what we do, and do what we love.
That Professor Gherardi is a passionate professional who loves what she does is in no doubt, and her attachment and service to the field show this in a number of ways. She has been at the forefront of important national and international learned societies, including being President of the European Group for Organizational Studies (1997-2000) and exercising scientific leadership within the Italian Sociological Association (1993-1996). She supports many of the major journals in the field though editorial positions and has played a significant role in international conferences and learned societies.
Importantly, she has made a major contribution to the development of junior scholars. In one sense, this is intrinsic to her work and style of writing – she has the ability to make complex ideas accessible, and at the same time provokes interest and inspiration through her creative engagement with the field. She makes a tremendous difference to young scholars through her many developmental workshops and informal conversations – efforts which can easily go unacknowledged. However, as an illustration, one of our brightest scholars here at St Andrews considers herself one of Professor Gherardi’s ‘academic children’. Another young scholar experienced not only the intellectual rigour, but also the nurturing side of this engagement, describing the experience of spending time with Professor Gherardi as being like ‘spending time with your Auntie’. It is easy to see what he means: here is someone kind, who you can trust and who is full of good advice. It is more unusual than one might expect for an internationally renowned researcher to combine incisive critical scholarship with such obvious kindness and a commitment to community-building. And it is a combination that is very much to our taste here at St Andrews.
Therefore, Chancellor, in recognition of her major contributions to Sociology and Organisation Studies, I invite you to confer on Professor Silvia Gherardi the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.