Sub-theme 22: The Territorial Organization

Garance Marechal
University of Liverpool, UK
Stephen Andrew Linstead
University of York, UK
Iain Munro
University of Innsbruck, Austria

Call for Papers

"The act of interpretation involves creating maps or representations that simplify some territory in order to facilitate action." (Weick, 1993: 361)

Although the activity of mapping has received sustained attention in the context of organizational design or the social psychology of organizing, the concept of territory remains relatively unexplored. In this stream we wish to invite consideration of both material and symbolic aspects of the territorial characteristics of organizing. Karl Weick's "anecdote of the map" cited above is based on a geographical metaphor transposed into organizational theory in order to highlight the representational processes of simplification at work in processes of organizing. These maps act as heuristics to facilitate organizational action and are instrumental in purpose. In this stream we wish to pay greater attention to the production of such assemblages, but consider them as extending beyond organizational boundaries.

Robert Ardrey in The Territorial Imperative (1966) synthesized a mass of contemporary biological and evolutionary evidence to argue that it was the natural instinct to territorialize that had helped humans to dominate the animal kingdom, and his work influenced the interpretation of human activities as diverse as the taming of the American West, the building of the Berlin Wall, the behaviour of aristocratic elites, and NASA putting a man on the moon. With a more parochial if global cultural scope, Geert Hofstede domesticated the concept by linking national cultures with anthropologically arbitrary geopolitical boundaries, ignoring diversity and cultural striations within those boundaries. We believe the human territory of territorialization lies somewhere between the two.

Lash (1999: 59-61) argues that there is a tension between ground and groundlessness, expressible as the difference between roots and routes. Roots imbricate and transform the materiality of the ground through the immaterialities of time, culture and affect. Routes refer to ways of representing or 'marking' space, invoking different metaphors: grid or map (providing cognitive and psychosocial security), and labyrinth or rhizome (exploratory and allowing multiple simultaneous and spontaneous connections with heterogeneous others). Organizational activity cannot generate 'routes' without fully considering 'roots' aspects of territoriality, and vice versa.

The concept of terroir can be used to explore aspects of territoriality still unaddressed in organizational research. Recently, the word has evoked a 'sense of place', associating social and cultural practice and place, with connotations of roots and origin, tradition and heritage (Maréchal, 2009). Deleuze and Guattari (1987) understand the concept in terms of psychophysical as well as geospatial territory. Terroirs are not material sites of cultural origins but spaces where and how concepts and representations – capital, words, things – are culturally realized and acquire qualities, taste, aroma or savour, the constructed outcomes of cultural processes of territorialization and deterritorialization. Every social assemblage is territorial and is organized according to these processes which follow lines of flight or escape. Property deterritorializes the relation between people and the earth, but being nomad escapes such constraints, evading them without being "rooted" in opposition. De Certeau et al. (1988) introduce the idea of "discursive terroir" which roughly corresponds to indexical and untranslatable elements in a discourse, such as cultural allusions and idiosyncratic expressions. Terroir can thus have significant symbolic and discursive connotations.

How do humans negotiate terroir, through processes that are both symbolic and material and cut across the boundary between nature and culture? For Deleuze, it is through producing assemblage which is

a multiplicity which is made up of heterogeneous terms and which establishes liaisons, relations between them, across ages, sexes and reigns – different natures. Thus the assemblage's only unity is that of a co-functioning: it is a symbiosis, a "sympathy". It is never filiations which are important, but alliances, alloys; these are not successions, lines of descent, but contagions, epidemics, the wind (Deleuze & Parnet, 2002: 69).

For this stream, we invite explorations of this viral and liquid scenario in an organizational context: the organizational anthropology, sociology and psychology of terroir and assemblage. Contributions may consider, but are not limited to

  • The terroir effect (the material influences of terroir on the character of the organization) deploying the micro-focus of terroir in combining the micro-material and the micro-symbolic within a conceptualisation of dynamic and interconnected wholes.
  • Studies of microprocesses in creating new organizational forms, such as meshworks
  • Developing De Landa's attempt to produce an assemblage sociology
  • Use Hardt and Negri's notion of assemblage and other associated Deleuzian concepts to critique the control society and its organs, especially the idea of multitude
  • Empirical studies of organizational multiplicities, network cultures, liquid and viral cultures
  • The role of bodies with and without organs, in and as assemblages
  • "Nomad science" – circulation of knowledge through community via itinerant/migrant/mobile workers, open source information architecture.
  • The reterritorializing New Regionality (e.g. Slow Food) vs. deterritorializations of McDonaldization


Ardrey, R. (1966/1997): The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations. New York: Kodansha Globe
De Certeau, M., L. Giard & P. Mayol (1988): The Practice of Everyday Life. Vol. 2: Living and Cooking. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
De Landa, M. (2006): A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity. London: Continuum.
Deleuze, G. & F. Guattari (1987): A Thousand Plateaus. London: Athlone.
Deleuze, G. & C. Parnet (2002): Dialogues. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lash, S. (1999): Another Modernity: A Different Rationality. Oxford: Blackwell.
Maréchal, G. (2009): "Terroir." In: A.J. Mills, G. Durepos & E. Wiebe: Encyclopedia of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Weick, K. (1993): "Organizational Redesign and Improvisation." In: G.P. Huber & W.H. Glick (eds.): Organizational Change and Redesign. New York: Oxford University Press, 346-382.


Garance Marechal 
Stephen Andrew Linstead 
Iain Munro