Speaking of dominance, status differences, and identification: Making sense of a merger


should be addressed to Dr Mark van Vuuren, Institute for Behavioural Research, University of Twente, P.O. BOX 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands (e-mail: h.a.vanvuuren@utwente.nl).


This study focuses on the perceptions of faculty members involved in a merger between two South African universities that were historically a ‘white’ and a ‘black’ institution. Combining a sensemaking approach and insights from social identity theory, the study aimed for a better understanding of the dynamics that underlie the processes of identification in organizational settings. Analysis of the transcripts of interviews and a focus group showed the importance of status differences, dominance, and several foci of identification. Surprisingly, employees from both merging partners claimed to be the dominated group in the merger and faculty members described their post-merger identification in terms of their profession rather than their membership of the organization. These findings draw attention to the dynamic relationship between salient categories of identification.