Disabled at Work: Body-Centric Cycles of Meaning-Making

Anica Zeyen, Oana Branzei

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A 22-month longitudinal study of (self)employed disabled workers models the growing centrality of the body in meaning-making. We inductively explain how body dramas of suffering or thriving initially instigate cycles of meaning deflation and inflation at work. Our disjunctive process model shows that, at the beginning of the pandemic, disabled workers performed either dramas of suffering or on dramas of thriving. However, as the global pandemic unfolded, disabled workers begun crafting composite dramas that deliberately juxtaposed thriving and suffering. This conjunctive process model stabilized meaning-making at work by acknowledging the duality of the disabled body, as both anomaly and asset. Our findings elaborate, and bridge, emerging theories of body work and recursive meaning-making to explain how disabled workers explicitly enroll their bodies to make meaning at work during periods of societal upheaval.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2023


  • disability
  • work
  • meaning making

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