Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-11-2018


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett

Committee Member

Erik Garrett


Merleau-Ponty, body, communication, organization, aesthetics, art, phenomenology, leadership, praxis, embodiment


The body is a sense-based medium that creates and interprets organizations. Bodies create organization. An aesthetic theory of organizational communication reveals the significance of the body to the organization. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of aesthetics offers a theory of aesthetic organizational communication that is yet to be developed. Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetic essay on painting, Eye and Mind, describes the body as the medium through which painters turn the world into painting. His philosophy of painting builds bridges between aesthetics, the body, and organizational communication.

In chapter one, four theories of organizational communication are described: communication constitutes organization (CCO), text/interpreter, ventriloquism, and sensemaking. The chapter envisions each theory through an embodied understanding of organizational communication. The lived body experiences organizational communication, texts, human and non-human dynamics, and non-rational ways of knowing through sense. Chapter two discusses, aesthetic organizing, a theory developed in the 1990’s as a response to the predominant rational, cognitive, and analytic models used to understand and theorize organizations. Aesthetics engages senses and therefore our body. Aesthetics integrates cognitive and intuitive ways of knowing. Aesthetic organizing is a holistic way to interpret communication in organizations and reflexively with the body as the research instrument for organizational members, managers, leaders, and consultants. Aesthetic is a way of knowing.

Chapter three discusses affective atmospheres. Human and non human affects make an atmospheres. These atmospheres offer a way to interpret texts, objects, languages, and discourses simultaneously intertwined within organizational bodies. Organizations are atmospheres co-created through affective bodies. The invisible structures of atmospheres and affect are made visible by aesthetics. Like architecture, atmospheres and affect are built environments accessible only by sense. Chapter five discusses Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of painting. According to Merleau-Ponty, the task of a painter is to make visible the invisible. His ontology of painting in Eye and Minddescribes the painter’s method of interrogating the world. It is a method of understanding that does not abstract or manipulate the subjects it wishes to study. Body, world, and sense are all intertwined for the painter.

Chapter six discusses Wendelin Küpers (2015) book, Phenomenology of the Embodied Organization, which is the sole monograph that brings Merleau-Ponty into organizational theory and practice. In this monograph, Küpers applies Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and ontology by braiding organizations, aesthetics, and bodies. Küpers claims that intertwinement, reversibility, and chiasm operate in organizations because bodies co-create organized contexts. The final chapter, discusses organizational communication as tactile, sense, and tacit embodiment. To teach business communication courses on organizational theory by corporeal experiences, e.g. pottery or painting, students develop a tactile understanding of organizational communication and embodied leadership.