One flew over the duck pond: Autoethnography, academic identity, and language

Janne Tienari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Autoethnography is about studying a community through the author’s personal experience. I offer my autoethnography of moving from a Finnish-speaking business school to a Swedish-speaking one in Helsinki, Finland. This is my story as a Finnish speaker who works in English, develops a sense of lack and guilt for not contributing in Swedish, and enacts an identity of an outsider in his community. My ambivalent identity work as a privileged yet increasingly anxious white male professor elucidates connections between identity, language, and power, and it may enable me to see glimpses of what those who are truly marginalized and excluded experience. I argue that academic identity is based on language, and once that foundation is shaken, it can trigger self-reflection that helps to show how language is inevitably tied in with complex power relations in organizations. I offer my story as an invitation to discuss how we learn to deal with the complexity of identity work and language. My story lays bare how autoethnographies by the privileged, too, can be useful if they show the vulnerability we all experience in contemporary universities.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalManagement Learning
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)576-590
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 22.10.2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Autoethnography
  • identity
  • language
  • power
  • universities

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising


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