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Stigmatization by Authoritarian Government: Russian NGOs Under the 2012 "Foreign Agents" Law

Non-governmental organizations have a hard time under Vladimir Putin's control. But how exactly does the process of stigmatization work? As part of the ZHAW International Business Seminar Series, Prof. Dr. Anastasiya Zavyalova uses the example of Russia to examine a perfidious practice of depotentiation and presents findings that can also be applied to research into other regimes.

Most organizational studies focus on existing stigmas, often overlooking the process through which stigmatization occurs. Few have examined the dynamics between stigma creators and those affected, as well as the role of governments in this process.

In her presentation, Prof. Zavyalova addresses this gap by examining the stigmatization process of Russian NGOs following the enactment of the "foreign agent" law in 2012. Using an inductive approach based on archival data, online sources, and interviews, she highlights the deliberate efforts of the authoritarian government to stigmatize specific NGOs by labeling them as "foreign agents."

The result is a three-stage model describing the evolution of the stigmatization process:

  1. The emergence of the stigma label
  2. The enforcement and contestation
  3. The spread of the stigma

The presented study underscores the critical role of power imbalances, limited actions by higher authorities, and low media attention during the early stages of stigmatization. These findings may also be applicable to other contexts with authoritarian regimes.

Prof. Anastasiya Zavyalova is Professor of Strategic Management at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. Additionally, she serves as an International Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation and an Associate Editor at the Academy of Management Review.

She holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business. Her research focuses on socially responsible and irresponsible organisational actions that build, damage or restore social recognition values such as reputation and celebrity.

IBSS 2024: What, where, and when

"Stigmatization by Authoritarian Government: Russian NGOs Under the 2012 'Foreign Agents' Law"

  • Date: 21 May 2024
  • Time: 12.30-01.30 pm
  • Venue: ZHAW School of Management and Law, Building SW, Room 123 and online
  • Online participation: You will receive the link to the Webex seminar after registration