“We are all so different that it is just … normal.”: Normalization practices in an academic hospital in the Netherlands

Hannah Leyerzapf*, Petra Verdonk, Halleh Ghorashi, Tineke A. Abma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Internationally, academic hospitals are giving increasing attention to diversity management. This paper sheds light on the actual praxis of cultural diversity management by professionals in workplace interactions. An ethnographic study in a Dutch academic hospital showed that normalization practices were obscuring diversity issues and obstructing inclusion of cultural minority professionals. The normalization of professionalism-as-neutral and equality-as-sameness informed the unequal distribution of privilege and disadvantage among professionals and left no room to question this distribution. Majority and minority professionals disciplined themselves and each other in (re)producing an ideal worker norm, essentialized difference and sameness, and explained away the structural hierarchy involved. To create space for cultural diversity in healthcare organizations in the Netherlands and beyond, we need to challenge normalization practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-150
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Management
Issue number2
Early online date19 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


The study on which this paper reports received funding from the National Scientific Funding Agency of the Netherlands in the form of the Aspasia grant . No commercial funding for this paper was received. We are greatly indebted to the commitment and openness of all professionals in the academic hospital. We are grateful to the NWO (Dutch Council for Scientific Research) and its Aspasia laureate for enabling this study. Also, we are sincerely thankful to Sheri Six and Annemijn van Marlen for editing this paper, as well as to the reviewers and editors of the Scandinavian Journal of Management for their conscientious reviewing –you have all helped us to improve this paper.

FundersFunder number
National Scientific Funding Agency of the Netherlands


    • Academic hospitals
    • Cultural diversity
    • Ideal worker norm
    • Normalization
    • Privilege/disadvantage
    • Professionalism
    • Reification of difference/sameness


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