Award presentation speech – Alessia Contu’s Laudatio for David Knights


Rosa Luxemburg CMS Award 2017 to David Knights


Laudatio by Alessia Contu


It is my absolute pleasure and honor to present the Rosa Luxemburg CMS Award 2017 to Prof. David Knights. David for over 40 years has been an inspiration for so many of us present here today, and for many who are not here but have been nurtured by his writings and contributions.


David has been described often as a powerhouse. I think it is fitting. He is full of creative intellectual and physical energy that has busted traditional boundaries, and the constellations of concepts, ideas and domains that were possible to consider, focus on, and/or draw upon in what, in the 70s, use to be ‘industrial sociology, accounting and management science.’


For example if you consider the boundaries around theories and theoretical inspirations, think of his pioneering work drawing upon Foucault’s writing and other post-positive approaches for understanding and elaborating the very foundations of management and organisation theory;


Or, if you consider specific concepts, think of the significance of ‘insecurity’ and ‘identity’, and the string of amazing work that literally constituted a number of field of studies – you might remember the various ‘Knights and Willmott’ articles, ‘Knights and Sturdy’, ‘Knights and Vurdubakis’, ‘Knights and MacCabe’….


Or, if you focus not only on concepts but also on ‘domains’ and ‘subject areas’, think of his original work on gender at work and masculinity and the string of research and articles with Deborah Kerfoot, and his leading role with the journal Gender Work and Organization and its conference; and lately his work on  ‘professionals’, especially academics and vets, and issues of gender and identity with Caroline Clarke.


Last but not least David has been an amazing teacher. One who has never been comfortable with the quasi-pulpit logic of traditional education and who innovated management educational practices early on. He brought in not only new concepts such as ‘power’, ‘identity’ and ‘insecurity’ to understand business in society and work organizations; but also used literature and novels to engage students and work with them in stimulating ways. This work resulted importantly in the course WIS – ‘Work Industry and Society’ – a course that was taught for over twenty years at the University of Manchester (and UMIST) that is also recognized in the book ‘Management Lives’ and that in some guise or other continues to delight students also today.


In this audience there are many “WISes”, who were David’s students, and took the WIS course; or that like myself were fortunate enough to teach this course as doctoral students: we all were changed forever in the process.


Anyhow, in case you are thinking it – let me tell you that David is a brilliant and kind scholar and educator but he is no Saint. David forgive me you are great but you are not perfect… I know of many anecdotes and really there is not time now to share any…

The point is that David has been an enthusiastic and epicurean workaholic that in the last 40 years has travelled the world speaking at and leading so many conferences and scholarly events that I am sure there is at least one person sitting at your table who can share at least one anecdote involving David and his exploits… Someone confided in me that John Hassard can be relied upon for the very juicy ones!


Concluding, I would like to invite you to raise your glass and toast to the health and happiness of a fun loving, original, path breaking and extremely generous scholar who has left and continues to leave an indelible mark in the way we think and the way we do our critical work in management and organisational scholarship.


To David!