Why is it that some whistleblowers suffer for speaking out, but others do not? On Thursday 20 June 2019, the IOS Platform Markets and Corporations in Open Societies and Utrecht University School of Governance organize a seminar given by Mrs. Meghan Van Portfliet, PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast, on the stigmatization of whistleblowers.
Please note: places for this seminar are limited.
Whistleblowing research has shown that society holds ambivalent attitudes towards whistleblowers, with some holding them up as saints and heroes, while others dismiss them as disloyal traitors. This ambivalence has been explored to some extent, but both organizational and whistleblowing research both largely accept as given that whistleblowers are stigmatized. In this paper, Van Portfliet argues that stigmatization is not inevitable- a label that is universally applied and internalized by the whistleblower- but rather is a part of a struggle for recognition. By drawing on Goffman’s work on stigma, and on Honneth’s theory of recognition Van Portfliet illustrates how the response of the whistleblower impacts the processes of stigmatization.
To do this, she analyzes two different cases of whistleblowing, one where the label of “whistleblower” was accepted, and one where the label was eventually rejected. By comparing how the whistleblower responds to stigmatizing others, Van Portfliet explores how stigmatization can be framed as one step in a struggle for recognition: whistleblowers can accept that they are stigmatized, or they can struggle against it. Exploring whistleblower stigmatization this way adds to the literature in two important ways. First, it builds on whistleblowing research that has emphasized how stigma is relational- the response of others to whistleblowers is an integral part of the process of stigmatization. Her study explores the interaction- the response of others and the response of the whistleblower- in processes of stigmatization.
Using this view, she illustrate how the whistleblower can be a passive victim or can resist stigmatization. Additionally, Van Portfliet add to literature on organizational stigma by exploring how whistleblower stigma comes about, rather than just accepting it as given.
Bio of Meghan Van Portfliet
Meghan is a last-year PhD student at Queen's University Belfast. Her research focuses on whistleblowing, recognition, and the role of advocacy groups in promoting the legitimacy of whistleblowing and whistleblower protection. She will submit her thesis in May, 2019. In addition to her doctoral studies, Meghan has worked with members of Transparency International Ireland to co-author the 2017 Speak Up Report, which provides information and recommendations on how to better protect whistleblowers in Ireland. She is also a member of the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, based at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and part of a team of academics researching whistleblowing impact.
Following, on 20 June at 1 AM , the two-day International Whistleblowing Research Network (IWRN) conference will be held at the Utrecht University School of Governance. Please find the programme attached.