Face work in annual reports: a study of the management of encounter through annual reports, informed by Levinas and Bauman

David J. Campbell, Ken McPhail, Richard Slack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Annual reporting has moved from the conveyance of “simple” accounting numbers and more towards narrative, graphical, pictorial and broader aesthetic content conveyance. At the same time, there has been a small but growing discussion of the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Zygmunt Bauman and in particular the ethic of the Other. The aim of this paper is to explore the presence of faces in annual reports. Design/methodology/approach – Based on initial observations from the analysis of human representations in the annual reports of 14 companies for all years 1989 to 2003 (210 annual reports), the paper interprets the increase from a Levinasian perspective, drawing substantially from Bauman's articulation of Levinas' ethic of the Other. Particularly within the work of Levinas, this ethic is articulated through the nakedness of the face. Analysis is partly performed through illustration of the site of audiencing, a key visual methodology, in annual report images. Findings – A significant rise in total human representation over time is interpreted in Levinasian terms and the range of sites of audiencing is demonstrated. Arguments are discussed that suggest a counter-hegemonic understanding of the corporations' responsibility to the Other. Originality/value – The paper provides a critical analysis of what this kind of face work means within the context of Levinas' ethics of the Other. The paper explores what this kind of face work means for the possibility of Levinasian-inspired moral development and the potential for a counter-hegemonic face work that may promote accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-932
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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