Friday 10 Sep 2021
⏰ MELBOURNE TIME
9.00 - 11.00 am
⏰ LOCAL START TIME
Dr Joseph Duggan
Consultant, Dr. JF Duggan and Associates, LLC, USA
Founding editor of Palgrave’s series, Postcolonialism and Religions that in its tenth year has hosted over a dozen volumes, as it prioritizes the voices of Global South authors. Consulting work specializes in the unconscious impact of what congregations and other communities don’t see but become, and in the process replicate trauma.
Unconscious Becoming and Its Undesired Impact
Brand narratives are conversations between a company and its constitutive stakeholders. We know that these conversations happen on both conscious and unconscious levels. Yiannis Gabriel states that “Organizational ceremonials, stories, texts, brands and material artifacts, such as buildings, furniture, uniforms and brochures, can be interpreted or ‘read’ as expressions of the unconscious.” I propose that an organization’s conscious and unconscious choice of images for its decorative art has a profound influence on the both the conscious and unconscious development of the identity of its members, and their economic performance. To better illustrate Gabriel’s claim, I have developed a method that can be applied in a variety of organizations to interpret and read the unconscious. The method compares the organizational branding narrative to the progress of their members’ identity development, and the firm’s economic performance.
Like all organizations, churches promote their branding message through speech forms such as sermons, texts such as sacred narratives, and images such as art on church walls. In two examples I illustrate the unconscious impact of church art on the identity formation of the congregations’ becoming, and their long-term economic sustainability. The walls of Saint Francis Church told the life story of Francis through its stained-glass windows. One window illustrated Francis bringing his message to the world. This window was in the corner of the main worship space where over the years clutter gathered to impede the view of the window by its members. Throughout the life of this congregation, the church community never had a signature social program to their neighborhood or city, and never brought their message to the world. The walls of Saint Stephen’s Church emphasized the death of Jesus with the story of his new life hidden. The furnishings of the church were provided by a member of the church who suffered a tragic death. Every member’s gaze constantly for fifty years recalled death on two levels. The congregation was plagued by emotional and physical deaths. Both churches eventually closed due to their lack of economic sustainability.
Is it just a coincidence that Saint Francis lacked a ministry that brought their message to the world and the stained-glass window depicting Francis bringing his message to the world was blocked? Is it just a coincidence that the multiplicity of deaths at Saint Stephen’s reflected the art that hung on its walls and its furnishings? In both Saint Francis and Saint Stephen’s the members of these congregations strikingly became that which they unconsciously saw over a period of fifty years. If we become that which we see and don’t see, then organizations need to pay more attention to their spatial environment in the formation of their branded life. The unconscious messages clearly have developmental and economic impact.
Organizations must be fully conversant in their branding narratives in order to determine in what way these narratives influence and are congruent or incongruent with the organization’s conscious and unconscious becoming. The leaders of Saint Francis and Saint Stephen’s underestimated the member identity impact of the art chosen for its walls. The result was diminishment of both their developmental formation and economic performance. A more proactive approach to the unconscious life of the organization’s spatial culture could have facilitated greater congruence and coherence of their branding.
Organizations need to integrate their narratives, images and spaces with their aspirational goals. Otherwise, they become that which they consciously see, and unconsciously don’t see.
Small group discussion; impressions of the paper and developing questions for the presenter
Discussion forum with the presenter; moderated for the speaker to elaborate their ideas
Discussion forum with the presenter; themes from the discussions
Whole symposium open reflection discussion