saliha bava's blog

Understanding Our Life, Work & Ourselves

by Saliha on Feb.26, 2011, under Conversations, Design Thinking, Leadership, Meaning Making, Performance, Reflective Action, Strategic Relational Thinking©

In the past postings I have  talked about understandings and the notion of performance. Today I’m pulling these various threads to illustrate how we are designers and creators of various forms of living (social processes) or what may be referred to as practices. I believe that we practice how to be in this world by being and becoming. In the search of being and becoming (a person, couple, an organization, a tribe and/or nation state) we design our processes of  becoming which are created socially. At a community or organizational or institutional level, practice refers  to the various programs that we roll out from human resources to teaching programs, from marketing to public relations, from quality control to compliance, from sustainability to R&D, from organization development to executive/management coaching etc. At the family level, practices (social processes) can be understood as ways of living, parenting, romancing, celebrating, being a family, vacationing, financial management, being a couple and/or parent, how to be happy, conflict management etc. Our practices can be understood as stories and performances within space and time, i.e. culture of a family, profession, organization, institution, region or county. These are the stories we create  as kids of our parents, or as members of a family, or as a mental health specialist of trauma and its treatment, or as researchers of what is scientific, or as teachers to address what is learning and assessment, or as part of a PR campaign for an organization, or the OD’s analysis of organization culture, or the ethnographers narratives of a cultural ritual or the country’s story of democracy etc.


These stories and performances can be understood as Communicative Actions: which are the processes by which in language and in relationship (thus creating a community or network) we create action and meaning (Anderson & Goolishian, 1988). These domains of meaning are practices as illustrated above, bringing us back a full circle. The cyclic process of creating meaning in communities of relationship and in language is constitutive of communicative action as illustrated below.

Cycle of Communicative Action

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Cycle of Communicative Action

This is a way of understanding our life (which includes work) as a constitutive system-a meaning generating system that is dynamic and creative and part of larger systems. Not only are we constituted but we also create and make the world around us.  As makers of this world we are creators in the everyday play of life. Our relational responsiveness (Shotter) within all the micro interactions shape the various relationships. To further elaborate on these ideas, over the next few posting, I’ll use this frame for creating an understanding of us as makers of conventions (rather than only consumers of these conventions) within the context of family, organization and research. Stay tuned!!


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Performing “Understandings” and/or “Wrongs”

by Saliha on Nov.01, 2010, under Conversations, Design Thinking, Meaning Making, Performance

Henry Miller said, “Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not yet understood.” Like children there is a certain degree of play in unfamiliar or challenging situations as we learn, innovate and construct the conventions for human interactions. These forms of improvisation and play are the ways we perform and become relational beings in our everyday lives and contexts such as personal relationships, teaching, business, research etc. There is a playful cliché in Hindi which states, “Understand understanding with understanding, because to understand understanding, is also an understanding.” This brain and tongue twister is the playful performance of the human activity we call understanding. And if we turn to Hugh Prather we find ourselves at another playful twist. He says, “’You’re wrong’ means “I don’t understand you”- I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. But there is nothing wrong with you, you are simply not me and that’s not wrong.” So the question arises how do we construct our everyday lives with these twists and turns? One way is to think of it as performance. How do you construct understandings, understanding that understandings are also constructed? (LOL)

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Performances and Landscapes that have no Name

by Saliha on Oct.21, 2010, under Conversations, Meaning Making, Performance

Today I was conversing with one of my advisees about their* process of dissertation. As we discussed the process of creativity and what is creativity, we found ourselves in the midst of a conversation performing bullshit and illegitimacy in the course of constructing concepts and identity.We were creating.

I often say “its all bullshit, until it isn’t.” Most people inquire what do I mean**. Today, the person said “why does it have to be anything but bullshit” (paraphased). For the first time, in a very long time, I was given a gift to reflect on my now living narrative. But the power of the question lay not in the question rather it was in the context of what we were talking and the performance of one of their identity narratives. One of the identity narratives this person has lived with is that “I bullshit a lot.”

The art of bullshiting is critical to creativity, for it is living outside the box of normative and flexing one’s muscles of creative story telling. Yet we have no name for this life form or performance. The landscapes for such performances are usually private and thus the absence of a name, ie public name.  If its public, then it is shaped and named by the community of practitioners we are associated with. For instance, if one of my performances is “writing as research” (Richardson, 2003), this might be considered in the classic, empirical research world as bullshit (ie not scientific). However, in the critical qualitative inquiry world it might be considered as cutting-edge practice; in the research world per se, it might be named as a marginal or non-normative, or radical practice.  So often our practices, even though shared by number of us, lives in private. However, private often goes unnamed or named as an “illegitimate” practice as we allow our self to be dominated and colonized by the current normative,  i.e, public standards of practice.

Creating research and conducting research can be seen as one and the same activity or related activity and/or distinct activities. However one may view them, both contain performance-centered notions of community, knowledge, space and identity; thereby being a performative practice. Research is a creative process irrespective whether one follows the current dogmas of empirical research or innovations of research. A practitioner-based researcher, is in the novel position, as an artist, of creating art for public consumption. Such a practitioner is a creative artist (storyteller, music maker, poet, theater maker etc) who is creating space and knowledge with community members (and creating community) and thus creating and recreating one’s identity as s/he names the unnamed life form and co-creates the landscape with her/his community members.

Personally, I like the private and the public. The private is at times a liminal space, the space for incubation or percolation while the public is more like the oven for baking.

So what is your private process? Do you have a name for it?

*I’m using plural to honor the confidentiality of my advisee.

** that’s another blog for a different day. I suffice it by saying that a colleague of mine cooked me a wonderful dinner with a salute to it…

and what a wonderful dinner….

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Performance Turn in Qualitative Inquiry

by Saliha on Jun.27, 2010, under Design Thinking, Meaning Making, Performance, Reflective Action, Strategic Relational Thinking©

Lincoln & Denzin (2003) identify their vision of the future of Qualitative research  (QR) as the seventh movement of Qualitative Inquiry based on four assumptions (p. 611-613). One of the assumptions they identify is the Performance Turn. They state:

we anticipate a continued performance turn in qualitative inquiry, with more and more writers performing their texts for others. As ethnographic stagings, performances are always ‘enmeshed in moral matters’ (Conquergood, 1985, p. 2). Such performances ask audiences to take a stand on the performances and their meanings and, indeed, to join the performances and the creation of meaning. In these productions, performers and the audience members become cultural critics. If culture is an ongoing performance, then performers bring the spaces, meaning, ambiguities, and contradictions of culture critically alive in their performances (Conquergood, 1985). The performed text is one of qualitative researcher’s last frontiers. It is a version of Victor Turner’s (1986, p. 25) “liminal space,” an old, but new, border to be crossed. When fully embraced, this crossing will forever transform qualitative research methodology. it will serve, at the same time, to redefine the meanings of this project in its other moments and formations. (p. 612).

The Performance Turn is a call that is not limited to research and yet research is a site for knowledge production. So such a call is not only legitimacy creating (in the face of the Crisis of Legitimation) but also is call for creating the turn that is performance. The activity of performance creates what is performance. The activity is the act and the definition. The notion of  ‘to act is to define’ is what makes performance transformative and generative. It grows on in itself. Performance is the human condition. It is the process and product of human activity-it is culture! Thus, culture is not a place rather it is both polyvocal ongoing performances and the spaces that are situated which situates our relational performances (identities). We are located by our performances-situated activities and connectivities and not by the place (literal or virtual) that we occupy. These performances of situated activities and connectivities recursively produce and are produced by the situated spaces.

Thus, the Performance turn is the liminal space in research, just as it is in our everyday living practices, “an old, but new, border to be crossed.” The performance turn is re-positioning culture, place, activity, space, location, identity and for that matter, performance itself. All of this can be located/performed in the liminal space (border), which ironically, due to our gaze gets located as a destabilized center….turning it all on its head….oh! what a beautiful performance is that? Can you experience the situated activity and the connectivity as we float back and forth between the border and the center? Which is which?

Even as i seek to understand, the process of understanding becomes the what of the understanding which gets destabilized and performed as we seek to create understanding of understanding, so as to create a process which will further our understanding of content which is in flow with the form of understanding….and all this gets destabilized as we start to understand the play of polyvocality of understanding understanding! So if you are tripping, so are we all….and who is to create order within this chaos?

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Social Space: Performing Relational Connectivity

by Saliha on Jun.26, 2010, under Conversations, Meaning Making, Performance, Strategic Relational Thinking©

Where are we in relationship to each other, even as we go deeper into inner, outer and cyber space?

I love the! As a person who works in the liminal spaces of research, teaching and practice, I ask how do human development and organization development professionals perform as we advance in the areas of cyber, outer and inner space? Who are we humans becoming as we relate to each other? How do we create meaning and relationships? How do we continue to perform as social beings and not just as cyborgs, neural beings and terrestrials? How does our social not get reduced to the ethical? or should we leverage ethics to raise the question of where is the social? I raise these questions for the very same reason that is illustrated in this SpaceCollective video of the time capsule message that we sent out on Voyager….

How do we talk about our suffering, darkness, and pain as part of how we have designed the social and not just a part that we want to hide and continue to push out even as we continue to develop. As we develop in the arenas of cyber, outer and inner spaces, we continue to develop greater chasms between those who have access to those arenas and those who don’t. And yet, we have people in each of these arenas, attempting to close that very gap, which we have socially, politically, economically and historically created. So how do we include the social, the relational– the improvised art of living as an area of focus in virtual world of SpaceCollective (ie, the real world of conversations & living?) and not reduce it to ethics? Lets keep the relational nature of all these entities alive by celebrating this very thing that bridges the cyber, outer & inner spaces-our search for connectivity!

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