Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 311-334

First online:

Charismatizing the Routine: Storytelling for Meaning and Agency in the Burning Man Organization

  • Katherine K. ChenAffiliated withThe City College of New York and the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) Email author 

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Expanding organizations face the routinization of charisma dilemma in which rationalization, or everyday organizing activities, drains meaning and depresses agency. Using an ethnographic study of the organization behind the annual Burning Man event, I show how storytelling can combat disenchantment by promoting consideration of agency and meaning-making. This research demonstrates how storytelling infuses organizational rationality with meaning and agency, thereby “charismatizing the routine.” Through storytelling, people can derive meaning from even the most mundane routines and inspire listeners to imagine possibilities not covered by rules or conventions. Stories also stave off bureaucratic ritualism by clarifying the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate activities, encouraging a range of actions over coercive restrictions.


Charisma Charismatizing the routine Meaning Organization Storytelling