Qualitative research in accounting: Navigating dichotomies through alternative knowledge


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This Special Issue (SI) aims to mobilize qualitative accounting researchers to identify (un-)conscious dichotomies between privilege and marginalization and to work towards bridging the gap between researchers situated in the continuums and intersections of these two groups.

“Researchers played significant roles in the deliberate destruction and devaluation of intellectual, spiritual, and cultural resources in Indigenous communities, contributing to the complete eradication of ways of thinking and being” (Strega & Brown, 2015, p. 6). Research has contributed and continues to contribute significantly to the (re-)production of Western theories and knowledge, colonizing methodologies and the creation of (false) dualisms (Everett, 2004). This call for papers can be considered a continuation of the Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal special issue on accounting and subalternity (Graham, 2009) and is an invitation to showcase the existing dialogue and fruitful areas of research where collaboration and different viewpoints are embraced and not treated as dichotomies.

Dichotomies are constructed on various layers and contexts: For instance, the binary model of debits and credits defines “what counts, is accounted for, as being inside or outside the organization” (Power, 2018, p. 31, see also Hines, 1988 and Gendron & Rodrigue, 2021), an issue which has recently heated up in the debates around what sustainability reporting should encompass (Abhayawansa, 2022; Baumuller & Sopp, 2022; Giner & Luque-Vilchez, 2022). Accounting reproduces the language of market rationality which tends to undermine the interests of the public (Baker, 2014). It tends to focus on the short-term decision-making, letting the need for long-term changes appear less urgent (Tregidga & Laine, 2022). Beyond the organization, accounting thought has infiltrated our every-day lives and normalized technocratic managerialist ways of organizing / ordering society (Cooper, 2015; Brown & Tregidga, 2017). Moreover, it shapes the “reality of the economic imaginary of the self; the atomistic conception of the individual as a self-interested and opportunistic ‘individual’” (Roberts, 2021) which is perceived as distinct from its natural environment and the relationships with it.

“The metaphor of the margin has been very powerful in the social sciences and humanities for our understanding of social inequality, oppression, disadvantage and power. It is used alongside other similar concepts such as borders, boundaries, bridges, centre-periphery, and insider-outsider to demarcate people in spatial terms as well as in socio-economic, political and cultural terms” (Smith, 2021, p. 259). However, the research process itself and the way we communicate our research potentially contributes to the construction of dichotomies inform of the knowing “subject” – the distant researcher who creates knowledge – vs. the “object” of study which is somehow separate. It normalizes a socially constructed Western worldview which renders alternative worldviews and ways of knowing silent (Hilton, 2021). Furthermore, the self-centeredness of this research approach, tends to privilege Western research contexts over non-Western contexts, which demonstrates another dichotomy (Kamla, 2014). These dichotomies are complex, and it can be challenging to problematize their existence without further reproducing their hierarchical structures through the conversations which aim to overcome them.

Beyond expanding our understanding of various dichotomies, this SI hopes to encourage research that disrupts the concept itself. It demands open engagement with dichotomies and the processes which create them. It further requires critical reflexivity in order not to re-enforce the same binary opposition thinking. Our call aims to work towards an increasing presence of the Global South in accounting research and to foster open dialogues that will encourage emerging researchers to do local research with international quality (see for instance Hammond, Streeter & Musundwa, 2022).

There is a preference within ARLA to publish studies contextualized in the Ibero and Latin American setting which have been underrepresented in accounting research. A quick count of 2,560 management accounting publications and 43,425 citations from Web of Science between the years 2000 and 2021, shows 28 articles based on Latin American organizations, suggesting that in the accounting literature, studies based on data from Latin American countries do not have a significant position in international academic publications. Using Scopus, the search of “accounting and qualitative or critical” returns 4046 articles in peer reviewed journals, and it also confirms the global South is under-represented in accounting research.

While the Global South is in the focus of the journal, we acknowledge that the North-South divide is a dichotomy in itself: “This idea, that Native people were waiting for Europeans to lead us to civilization, is just a variation on the old savagism versus civilization dichotomy, but it is a dichotomy that North America trusts without question. It is so powerful a toxin that it contaminates all of our major institutions.” (King, 2013, 79; see also Smith, 2021, pp. 29-31) There is, therefore, also a need to challenge the concepts of ‘North’ and ‘South’ in themselves.

Further food for thought was provided by the discussion panel of the 7th Qualitative Accounting Research Symposium (QARS) at the University of Guelph, Professors Rania Kamla, Theresa Hammond, Olatunde Julius Otusanya and Alessandro Ghio moderated by Prof. Leslie Berger, which focused on Challenging Unconscious Dichotomies. The panelists emphasized that artificial dichotomies such as race, gender or sexuality once accepted by society, have real impacts on the lives and livelihoods of many people (Hammond & Streeter, 1994; Hammond, Clayton & Arnold, 2009; Ghio, McGuigan & Powell, 2023). Corruption (and its measurement) was mentioned as another example of false dichotomies (Otusanya, 2011; Otusanya & Lauwo, 2019): According to Transparency International, most countries in the Global South are listed as more corrupt than countries in the Global North. This, however, disregards the involvement of multinational companies, often headquartered in the Global North, which play a role in the bribery of governments to secure contracts or reduce tax payments (Otusanya, 2014). Likewise, if elites in the Global South benefit from corruption, why is it that their money is perceived to be “safer” if invested in “less corrupt” countries? It can be argued that those elites, together with multinational companies, also bought the rationale of the false binary created by international corruption rankings and reproduce them, helping with their acts to perpetuate this artificial dichotomy. Furthermore, class and economic status find ways to create dichotomies that through social reproduction become real dichotomies that help preserve elites. The SI provides a platform to discuss artificial dichotomies using qualitative and unconventional methods to highlight their material impacts.

The discussion at the Qualitative Accounting Research Symposium was the starting point of this SI, and it will continue in the 8th QARS with a healthy inventory of socially created dichotomies that are perpetuated though unconscious social reproductions. Selected studies from panelists and co-editors are detailed below to better guide the positioning of studies for this SI.

This call for papers on dichotomies and alternative knowledge is both a continuation of the efforts made by the network of critical accounting researchers and an opportunity to reach a broader audience. Submissions that engage with traditional and Indigenous knowledge to navigate dichotomies in all its forms are welcome. We are open to submissions that investigate any type of setting and engage with any intellectual and qualitative research tradition. The SI will admit a few systematic literature reviews, bibliometric studies, theoretical papers, reflection articles, or creative pieces (see for instance, Ghio, 2022), although the focus and preference are for empirical qualitative analysis, including histories of lived experiences, and studies applying Indigenous methodologies.

A paper development workshop will take place during the 8th QARS (last week in November 2023, hybrid format). Submission deadline for the paper development workshop is September 22, 2023 (send to: [email protected]). Presentation at the conference is not required for submission to the SI.

List of topic areas

The topics included in the special issue cover contributions from non-Western contexts, including, but not limited to the following issues and their related questions all using a qualitative accounting research lens:

  • Dichotomies in accounting research and practice. How to engage with communities in meaningful ways in qualitative research practices? Role of race, class, economic status, gender, religion, etc. in accounting research. Individual efforts to educate peers through papers, discussions, topics, courses, etc. How can the accepted social role of an "accounting professor" shape the invisible things we do every day at work and outside the job? What dichotomies need to be disrupted within the accounting profession?
  • Sustainability in critical and qualitative accounting. How to integrate traditional Indigenous knowledge in sustainability discussions? How can we reconcile the declaration of our accounting programs that the end goal is to protect stakeholders, while in fact what we teach is geared to protect mainly shareholders?
  • Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues. For instance, is there a common ground between ESG literature and broader sustainability literature? Is sustainability accounting at its core exclusive? Is there a way forward for established sustainability accounting research if approached from an Indigenous perspective? What is the role of Sustainability Standards (and standard setting) in a setting that disrupts dichotomies such as inside/outside, etc.
  • Topics related to the broader areas of equity, diversity and inclusion. For instance, exemplary work on traditional/Indigenous knowledge has been integrated in EDI discussions. Intersections of various types of oppression and ways to build solidarities among initiatives.
  • De-colonization and indigenization in accounting curriculum and research. How traditional/Indigenous knowledge be integrated in professional accounting programs? For instance, individual efforts to make students aware of various perceptions on false binaries through class activities that can slow down the social reproduction of novice practices. Up to what extent can the curriculum be vernacular and do students/institutions still find it relevant given the globalization of the accounting profession?


Guest Editors

Olatunde Julius Otusanya,
University of Lagos, Nigeria,
[email protected]

Marcela Porporato,
York University, Canada,
[email protected]

Fernanda Sauerbronn,
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
[email protected]

Daniela Senkl,
University of Guelph, Canada,
[email protected]

Submissions Information 

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available by clicking the button below.

Submit your paper here!

Manuscripts must be submitted in English. Please contact the guest editors if English is not your main language so this factor is considered when doing the first round of review; however, a professional editing in English will be required when the revised version is submitted by authors after the first round of reviews (R&R1).

Author guidelines must be strictly followed.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”.

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 1 November 2023
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 29 February 2024


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