This paper will explore the status and characteristics of ‘expert’ membership within an international organisation and its influence on the development of ‘exosomatic resources’. Invoking the framework of the ‘Community of Practice’ (Wenger, 1998), it is argued that status and power are realised in the development and interpretation of policy and conventions within the organisation, through the ‘negotiation of meaning’ and through the ‘politics of participation and reification’. Negotiations and decisions may take place over a period of time but are also situated within plenary debates. As such it is argued that power and hierarchy are not fixed structures but are emergent and fluid discursively over time and space.
The paper defines the characteristics of ‘expert’ membership encompassing a consideration of the command of participatory and interactional norms, as well as knowledge of the status and content of reified products. To illustrate these characteristics a critical analysis of the discourse of one delegate is provided. This exemplifies how expert knowledge is applied within a debate to influence and inform the development and interpretation of texts and subsequently to contribute to the (re)production of shared meaning and agreement on issues under debate.
It is argued that in considering both the forms of asymmetry in organisations and the practice of decision-making, research should focus on: the type of knowledge that is required and valued in any context; how this knowledge is accessed, enacted and exploited; and which members are instrumental in its construction, representation and reproduction.
|Keywords:||International Maritime Organisation, United Nations, Community of Practice, Expert Knowledge, Institutional Discourse|
Lecturer, Department of Applied Linguistics, School of Languages and European Studies, University of Reading, Reading, UK
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