Area of Expertise
- Accounting - First Nations
- Accounting - Globalization
- Accounting - History
- Accounting - Organizational
- Accounting - Pension
- Accounting - Poverty
- Accounting - Public Interest
- Accounting - Sociology
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Emerging Economies
- Nonprofit Governance
- Nonprofit Organizations
- Organization Performance
- Performance Measures
- Public Policy
- Qualitative Methods
- Social Innovation
- Social Organization
My research looks at the social role of accounting. I look at accounting in settings that are often ignored by accounting researchers, such as government programs or organizations like the World Bank, particularly settings where poverty is endemic. This has led me to study topics like old age pensions, homelessness, and Canada’s First Nations, using a variety of qualitative research methods to develop rich data sets. The theories I use are drawn from postmodern social and linguistic theorists. I find these theorists offer a vocabulary for redescribing the taken-for-granted, allowing a new perspective on the many forms of accounting in society.
2013, 2008 Schulich Research Fellowship Award
2013 Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal
2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005 Merit Award, Schulich School of Business, York University
2022, 2021, 2020, 2018, 2012, 2009, 2008 Finalist for Teaching Excellence Award, Schulich MBA Program
2006 Highly Commended Award in the 2006 Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award competition, for “Pension Accounting and the Public Interest”
2005 Highly Commended Award from Emerald Literati Network, for the special issue of Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 18(5), co-edited with D. Neu
2004 Highly Commended Award from Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal for the article “Accounting and the Holocausts of Modernity”, with D. Neu
2003 Dean’s Research Excellence Award Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Calgary $3,000
Peng, S., Bewley, K. and Graham, C. (2021), "On Theoretical Engorgement and the Myth of Fair Value Accounting in China: A Reply", Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 34(1), 54-57.
Purpose: This article is a reply to “On theoretical engorgement and the myth of fair value accounting in China” Nobes (2019) from the authors of “Adaptability to fair value accounting in an emerging economy: A case study of China’s IRFS convergence” (Peng and Bewley, 2010) and “The Winding Road to Fair Value Accounting in China: A Social Movement Analysis” (Bewley et al., 2018).
Design/methodology/approach: This article engages directly with the arguments of the criticism.
Findings: This article argues that the author of the commentary misunderstands the purpose, content and findings of both papers. By providing only a narrowly focused technical analysis of the new Chinese accounting standards, the author fails to see that their qualitative research approach reveals important, complex social and political factors at play in China’s attempts to adopt modern international accounting principles. The commentary expresses a view that accounting is a neutral technology that needs only to be clearly defined and enumerated to be correctly implemented, whereas this research takes a much broader and deeper perspective. The authors seek to understand how China was able to successfully adopt fair value accounting standards in 2006, whereas an earlier attempt to introduce fair value in 1998 had led to abuse of fair value measurements and the eventual repeal of fair value regulations in 2001.
Practical implications: This article helps clarify the purpose of qualitative accounting research, the role of theory in such research and the usefulness of theory in describing and explaining empirical case facts related to changes in accounting standards, particularly in an international context.
Originality/value: This article contributes to a better appreciation of qualitative accounting research.
Grisard, C., Annisette, M. and Graham, C. (2020), "Performative Agency and Incremental Change in a CSR Context", Accounting, Organizations and Society, 82, 1-22.
Based on a two-year participant observation, this paper shows how CSR managers align CSR programs closer to their personal convictions and eventually bring about incremental change. We focus on two CSR managers working on a project to develop a business aimed at serving rural West African consumers and show that while they frame their project in financial terms, they incrementally transform the firm’s representations in accordance with their own vision of CSR. We deploy Butler’s understanding of subjection through performative agency to show that even if CSR managers reproduce the CSR business case discourse to render their actions legitimate and recognizable, this empowers them to exercise a small degree of agency, allowing them to infuse a more inclusive perception of rural low-income populations into the firm’s practices. This paper makes two contributions. First, it shows that the subject can incrementally act to transform the dominant financial discourse governing her subjection to better align it with her desire. Second, we establish that the CSR manager navigates between the traditional duo of CSR actors: the organization and its stakeholders and therefore renders porous the boundary between them both.
Graham, C. and Grisard, C. (2019), "Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief: Accounting and the Stigma of Poverty", Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 59, 32-51.
In this paper, we examine the roles of accounting in two institutions dealing with poverty in Toronto during the 1920s. We draw on Georg Simmel’s influential insights on poverty to explore how accounting for poverty alleviation programs helps structure the relationship between rich and poor in society. We argue that accounting serves to bridge the social distance between rich and poor while insulating the rich from the stigma of the poor. This enables the rich to benefit from their efforts to assist the poor, ensuring the legitimation of wealth and the continued existence of poverty. Our analysis of these two historical institutions helps us comprehend some of the roles of accounting in poverty alleviation today.
Alawattage, C., Graham, C. and Wickramasinghe, D. (2019), "Microaccountability and Biopolitics: Microfinance in a Sri Lankan Village", Accounting, Organizations and Society, 72, 38-60.
Based on a micro-level study of microfinance, this paper explores how basic accounting technologies and interpersonal accountability are used to make lending to poor village women profitable and low risk. We argue that “microaccountability,” our term for the structuring and formalization of convivial relationships into a capillary system of accountability, must be recognized as a central tool of social governance under neoliberalism. Our field research in Sri Lanka allows us to analyse how microaccountability is employed by for-profit banks to create from poor villagers a legion of bankable individual entrepreneurs, trained to invigilate each other’s savings and credit behaviours. Using the theoretical lens of biopolitics, we show how microaccountability enables the extension of the finance industry into untapped sectors of the global population.
Bewley, K., Graham, C. and Peng, S. (2018), "The Winding Road to Fair Value Accounting in China: A Social Movement Perspective", Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 31(4), 1257-1285.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine China’s stop-start adoption of fair value accounting (FVA) into its national accounting standards. The paper analyzes how FVA standards promoted by transnational organizations were eventually adopted in China despite its conservative accounting traditions.
Design/methodology/approach: The study uses archival records and an analytic framework adapted from the studies of social movements to identify the institutional factors that differ between China’ first unsuccessful attempt to adopt FVA and its second successful attempt.
Findings: Shared interests of elite national and international groups, creation of social infrastructure, marshaling of key resources, and specific actions to frame FVA standards are found to be crucial factors supporting FVA reform in China. Practical implications The study helps advance our understanding of dissemination of international accounting regulations in non-Western societies. The findings can help accounting standard setters to avoid costly failures.
Originality/value: The study provides a structured analysis of the propagation of global accounting regulations. It exposes the factors in the failure and success of FVA adoption in China.
Cooper, C., Graham, C. and Himich, D. (2016), "Social Impact Bonds: The Securitization of the Homeless", Accounting, Organizations and Society, 55, 63–82.Keywords
This paper examines the recent phenomenon of social impact bonds (SIBs). Social impact bonds are an attempt to marketize/financialize certain contemporary, intractable “social problems”, such as homelessness and criminal recidivism. SIBs rely on a vast array of accounting technologies including budgets, future cash flows, discounting, performance measurement and auditing. As such, they represent a potentially powerful and problematic use of accounting to enact government policy. This paper contains a case study of the most recent in a series of SIBs, the London Homelessness SIB, focusing on St Mungo’s, a London-based charitable foundation that was one of two service providers (charities) funded by the SIB. The case study is intended to enable a critical reflection on the rationalities that underpin the SIB. For this purpose, the paper draws upon Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics and neoliberalism. The SIB is thoroughly neoliberal in that it is constructed upon an assumption that there is no such thing as a social problem, only individuals who fail. The SIB transforms all participants in the bond, except perhaps the homeless themselves, into entrepreneurs. The homeless are instead “failed entrepreneurs” who become securitised into the potential future cash flows of investors.
Crane, A., Graham, C. and Himick, D. (2015), "Financializing Stakeholder Claims", Journal of Management Studies, 52(7), 878–906.
This paper examines the role of accounting in assigning financial values to stakeholder claims. Stakeholder theorists have called for metrics managers can use to coordinate stakeholder claims. We argue that accounting already serves as the dominant example of such a tool, and that its role in measuring and representing stakeholder claims, and how those representations are used by stakeholders and managers, is not well understood. We suggest that accounting financializes stakeholder claims along three inductivelydeveloped dimensions, namely time, security, and priority. We analyse the case of pension accounting at General Electric to theorize concerning how these dimensions shape stakeholder claims and are used by stakeholders and managers to trade-off claims, demarcate claimants into groups, and reconstruct claims during negotiations.
Graham, C. (2014), "The Calculation of Age", Organization Studies, 35(11), 1627-1653.
This article explores the role of calculative technologies, such as taxation, accounting and actuarial practices, in constructing ‘age’ in contemporary society. It argues that retirement income programs built on these technologies attempt to construct specific relations not just between the individual and other generations, but between the individual and herself at other stages of life. Retracing the series of Canadian attempts to secure income for the elderly over the course of the 20th century, the paper shows how calculative technologies have been used to connect responsibility for the elderly to the political rationalities of the day. This genealogy allows us to recognize how the present Canadian retirement income system, with its public and private programs addressing different subsets of the population, is contingent on neoliberal rationalities of governance. These demand the alignment of the individual with the goals of the capital markets, and seek to achieve this through a distributed agency that encourages the investment of individual savings in retirement income products. The paper argues that this distributed agency is perpetually incomplete, and that uncertainty is necessary in order that the individual be constantly remade as an investor.
Graham, C. (2013), "Teaching Accounting as a Language", Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24, 120-126.
This paper explores how a literary turn in accounting education can provide students with the tools to comprehend financial accounting statements. It argues that a key implication of the literary turn in accounting research is that we must, in our classrooms, take seriously the idea of accounting as a language. By exploring what distinguishes accounting from other languages, not only in its grammar and structure but also in the conditions of production of accounting texts, a literary perspective on accounting can empower students to take a critical perspective on accounting, instead of being passive consumers of accounting signs.
Graham, C. (2012), "The Subject of Retirement", Foucault Studies, No. 13 (May), 25-39.
This paper examines the ”subject of retirement,” one of the most intimate governmental technologies of our present. It extends Read’s argument regarding Foucault’s views on neoliberalism, by providing explicit examples of the technologies of neoliberal government. Read drew attention to the intensification of governmentality by which neoliberalism has operated, and its pervasion into every aspect of society as the individual-as-citizen is transformed into the individual-as-entrepreneur. By examining the Canadian retirement income system, this paper provides a specific example of accounting as a tool of governmentality, a technology integral to neoliberalism’s regime of truth and its production of subjectivity.
Advanced Topics in Accounting Research
Social and Behavioural Accounting Research
Empirical Methods in Accounting Research
Financial Accounting for Managers
Social Innovation and the Structure of Global Poverty
Skills for Leadership
Introductory Financial Accounting
Project Title Role Award Amount Year Awarded Granting Agency Project TitleSocial Impact Measurement and Accountability for Results in the Field of Homelessness RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$151,030.00 Year Awarded2019 Granting AgencySSHRC Insight Grant Project TitleWebsite and Pilot Episode for Podcast Series RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$7,000.00 Year Awarded2018 Granting AgencySSHRC Exchange Grant Project TitleManaged Alcohol Programs: Evaluating Effectiveness and Policy Implications RoleCo-applicant Award Amount$400,000.00 Year Awarded2016 Granting AgencyCanadian Institutes of Health Research Project Title Role Award Amount$12,000.00 Year Awarded2015 Granting AgencyCPA Schulich Alliance Research Grant Project Title Role Award Amount$90,000.00 Year Awarded2015 Granting AgencySchulich Start-up Grant Project Title Role Award Amount$10,360.00 Year Awarded2014 Granting AgencyCMA - Research Grant Project TitleA Comparative Study of Accounting for Homelessness Programs in Western Countries RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$9,000.00 Year Awarded2012 Granting AgencyCMA - Research Grant Project TitleInvestigation of Data Availability and Personnel Accessibility for Federal Retirement Income Programs RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$37,160.00 Year Awarded2008 Granting AgencySocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council - Research Development Initiative - Management Business and Finance Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$2,500.00 Year Awarded2013, 2008 Granting AgencySchulich School of Business - Schulich Research Fellowship Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$90,000.00 Year Awarded2005-2008 Granting AgencySchulich School of Business, York University - Minor Research Grant Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$1,000.00 Year Awarded2004 Granting AgencyFaculty of Graduate Studies, University of Calgary - Graduate Research Scholarship Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$2,050.00 Year Awarded2004 Granting AgencyFaculty of Graduate Studies, University of Calgary - Graduate Research Scholarship Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$38,000.00 Year Awarded2003-2005 Granting AgencySocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council - SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$2,000.00 Year Awarded2003 Granting AgencyFaculty of Graduate Studies, University of Calgary - Graduate Research Scholarship Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$58,950.00 Year Awarded2001-2005 Granting AgencyDoctoral Program, Faculty of Management, University of Calgary - Graduate Assistantship (Research and Teaching) Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$10,000.00 Year Awarded2001 Granting AgencyDoctoral Program, Faculty of Management, University of Calgary - Robert A. Willson Doctoral Management Scholarship