Sub-theme 36: Arresting Space: Organizing (In-)Appropriations of/by Space and Place

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Paul W. Chan
The University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Anette Hallin
Mälardalen University, Sweden
Christine Räisänen
Chalmers University, Sweden

Call for Papers

What takes place in everyday organizing has interested organizational scholars for some time. It places emphasis on the actions, activities and practices of people as they make organizing happen. One interesting perspective of this practice-based scholarship is the probing of the disruptive and transformative potential of ‘arresting moments’ in social interaction, the capture of which has shown to be valuable as both explanatory and exploratory tools for management learning and practice (e.g. Katz & Shotter, 1996; Cunliffe 2003; Greig et al., 2013). However, the predominant focus on temporal dynamics has led to a neglect of the spatial dynamics at play. Recent interest in the processual dynamics of organizing has also put more focus on temporalities rather than spatialities (see e.g. Massey, 2005; Helin et al., 2014). Therefore, we want to devote this sub-theme to exploring the possibilities afforded in probing arresting spaces to grasp “what’s taking space”. Arresting space encapsulates an intriguing ambiguity; spaces may be arrested, but they, or the places they epitomize, may also arrest. By scrutinising this relationship, we may reveal surprising and unexpected solutions to some prevailing mysteries (Alvesson & Karreman, 2011).
The term arrest bears an interesting association with the theme of the colloquium in that its etymology to stay/stop and its figurative meaning to catch/hold are synonymous with the terms overcome, surprise, take, conquer. The word surprise in turn derives from the Medieval Latin word for seize, which has relevance to the venue of the colloquium, Tallinn, which has seen its space and place seized by a number of ‘others’ throughout history, from the Scandinavians to the Russians and momentarily by the Germans. Thus moments have been arrested, spaces have been seized, and places have seized. The spatial seizures of Tallinn’s places have no doubt resulted in disruptions and unexpected transformations of those which have appropriated as well as that which has been appropriated. In this sub-theme, we seek to focus our attention on seizing spaces and places of organization and organizing, and the role spaces and places play in seizing us.
We welcome papers that address one or more of the following:

  • Seizing territory in an increasingly virtual, hypermobile world: Traditional representations of workplaces in factories and offices are increasingly becoming replaced by agile and flexible spaces such as fab labs and virtual organization in the cloud, as well as transitory and liminal spaces of travel lounges and cafés. In an ever more ‘open’ society where the rhetoric of instilling greater freedom is met with the realities of greater fear and uncertainty (cf. Bauman, 2007), how do organizational actors avail themselves of territory that lends meaning to and legitimizes their experiences and actions (Benford & Snow, 2000)? In the Uberfication of everything where the dominance of the digital economy means that anything seems to go, and organization can happen anytime, anywhere and with anyone, there is at the same time a growing need to re-capture the spaces of organization, to bring things back to order. The recent court ruling on Uber in the UK where two drivers have successfully defended their status as employees rather than self-employed entrepreneurs is an example of re-framing old territory in new spaces. In open-plan offices, there is also evidence of workers who resist increasing de-territorialisation by re-territorialising their flexible work spaces with personal effects, which can in turn attenuate emotional exhaustion and safeguard wellbeing (e.g. Brown et al., 2005; Laurence et al., 2013). In an increasingly virtual and (hype)rmobile world, how do organizational actors territorialise, de-territorialise and re-territorialise the spaces of organization? How do previous representations and imagined anticipations of space and place disrupt or facilitate the real-life performances (Lefebvre, 1991) in spaces that are different from traditional work spaces?

  • Seizing time and space for ceasing: Organizational scholarship have largely privileged activity and wakefulness over rest and sleep (see Schoeneborn, Blaschke & Kaufmann, 2009; Valtonen & Veijola, 2011). In moving from an ontological position of organizational being to becoming, we are also encouraged to attend to organization as ceaselessly organizing (Chia, 2002). In seizing spaces of organization, there is a place for organizational actors and scholars to pause for reflection (Tuan, 1977), which in turn may well give rise to surprising and unexpected results. How do we open up spaces for such restful reflection? What methods can be mobilised to enable organizational actors to stop and seize organizational spaces and places for ceasing?

  • Seizing spaces and (dis-)placing institutions: In moving away from viewing organization as an entity, the study of organizational spaces has sought to sketch a more pluralistic landscape. By rejecting organization as a singular order, this pluralism emphasises the role of space and place in providing fertile sites for struggle and negotiation, and attends to the performative ongoing spacing (Beyes & Steyaert, 2012) and everyday reordering (Knox et al., 2015). Scholars have largely focussed on how spaces and places contribute to legitimise organizational practices. In so doing, scholarship has neglected the spaces and places for de-institutionalising the logics of the old (though, see de Vaujany & Vaast, 2013). More recently, the BREXIT vote, the success of the Trump campaign in the US presidential election and various Occupy movements point to the uprising by those who perceive and are perceived to be left out in forgotten spaces and places in a neoliberal, globalised world. Examples abound of people trying to resist the establishment and the elites who drive an agenda of ever open and porous society, and fight against exploitation that is often hidden in ever increasing global networks of production. In this “great unsettling” (Sennett, 2012), how do we account for the spatialities and dis-placing of institutions?



  • Alvesson, M., & Karreman, D. (2011): Qualitative Research and Theory Development: Mystery as Method. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Bauman, Z. (2007): Liquid Times: Living in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Benford, R.D., & Snow, D.A. (2000): “Framing processes and social movements: An overview and assessment.” Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 611–639.
  • Beyes, T., & Steyaert, C. (2012): “Spacing organization: non-representational theory and performing organizational space.” Organization, 19 (1), 45–61.
  • Brown, G., Lawrence, T.B., & Robinson, S.L. (2005): “Territoriality in organizations.” Academy of Management Review, 30 (3), 577–594.
  • Chia, R. (2002): “Essai: Time, duration and simultaneity: Rethinking process and change in organizational analysis.” Organization Studies, 23 (6), 863–868.
  • Cunliffe, A.L. (2003): “Reflexive inquiry in organizational research: Questions and possibilities.” Human Relations, 56 (8), 983–1003.
  • de Vaujany, F.X., & Vaast, E. (2013): “If these walls could talk: The mutual construction of organizational space and legitimacy.” Organization Science, 25 (3), 713–731.
  • Greig, G., Gilmore, C., Patrick, H., & Beech, N. (2013): “Arresting moments in engaged management research.” Management Learning, 44 (3), 267–85.
  • Helin, J., Hernes, T., Hjorth, D., & Holt, R. (eds.) (2014): The Oxford Handbook of Process Philosophy and Organization Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Katz, A.M., & Shotter, J. (1996): “Hearing the patient’s “voice”: Towards a social poetics in diagnostic interviews.” Social Science and Medicine, 43 (6), 919–931.
  • Knox, H., O’Doherty, D.P., Vurdubakis, T., & Westrup, C. (2015): “Something happened: Spectres of organization/disorganization at the airport.” Human Relations, 68 (6), 1001–1020.
  • Laurence, G.A., Fried, Y., & Slowik, L.H. (2013): ““My space”: A moderated mediation model of the effect of architectural and experienced privacy and workspace personalization on emotional exhaustion at work.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, 36, 144–152.
  • Lefevbre, H. (1991): The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Massey, D (2005): For Space. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Schoeneborn, D., Blaschke, S., & Kaufmann, I.M. (2009): The Organization That Never Sleeps: A metaphorical pathology of organizational insomnia. Working Paper No. 103, Institute of Organization and Administrative Science, University of Zurich.
  • Sennett, R. (2012): Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Vo-operation. London: Allen Lane.
  • Tuan, Y.F. (1977): Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Valtonen, A., & Veijola, S. (2011): “Sleep in tourism.” Annals of Tourism Research, 38 (1), 175–192.


Paul W. Chan is Senior Lecturer in the Management of Projects at the University of Manchester, UK. He studies human relations in engineering projects, with particular focus on a processual understanding how people cope with organisational, social and technological change. He also studies how the built environment and engineered artefacts shape the realities of human relations at the workplace. Pauls co-convened a sub-theme at the APROS/EGOS Colloquium on Spaces, Constraints and Creativities in Sydney in 2015, and is guest editing a special issue in the ‘Scandinavian Journal of Management’. He is Editor of ‘Construction Management and Economics’.
Anette Hallin is Associate Professor in Business Administration at Mälardalen University in Sweden. Taking an interest in how organising happens as a messy process, involving sociomaterial interactions in time as well as across space, she has studied the organising of projects, of cities and of academic work. Anette currently focuses on interorganisational collaboration and digitalization. She is the director of an interdisciplinary research program about sustainable societal development. Her work is published in a range of international journals and has previously co-organized sub-themes at EGOS Colloquia and NFF as well as been in the organizing committee for various, more specialized conferences.
Christine Räisänen is Chair of Organization and Communication at Chalmers University in Sweden. She has extensively studied organizational discursive practices, leadership, and knowledge/information management in project organizations. Christine is currently researching the role of space in practices of strategy-making. She co-convened a sub-theme at the APROS/EGOS Colloquium 2015, is guest-editing a special issue for the ‘Scandinavian Journal of Management’ as a result, and she has published in a number of management journals including ‘Organization’ and ‘Time and Society’.
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