Sub-theme 67: Spaces, Places, and Institutions

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Mélodie Cartel
UNSW Business School, Australia
M. Tina Dacin
Queen’s University, Canada
Ewald Kibler
Aalto University, Finland

Call for Papers

Over the past five years, there has been emerging scholarly interest for the intersection between spaces, places and institutions (e.g., Dacin et al., 2017; Dacin et al., 2018; Dacin et al., 2019; Lawrence & Dover, 2015). The spaces and places where social reproduction and change processes unfold can have considerable impact on people – on the way they see, feel, and do things – as well as on the outcomes of their actions. Our objective with this subtheme is to highlight the specificities of this emerging “situated institutionalism” and critically reflect on its potential for future institutional analysis.
Spaces are conceptualized in institutional research as temporary interactional settings, in which a diversity of actors gather, discuss field-level issues and sometimes experiment with new solutions (e.g., Canales, 2016; Cartel et al., 2019; Furnari, 2014; Hardy & Maguire, 2010; Kellogg, 2009; Mair et al., 2012; Mair & Hehenberger, 2014; Zietsma & Lawrence, 2010). As such, the conceptualization of space in institutional analysis draws on a diversity of research traditions that emphasize the bounded nature of spaces such as the notion of “free spaces” in the social movement literature (e.g., Polletta, 1999; Rao & Dutta, 2012), the notion of platforms in performativity studies (e.g., Muniesa & Callon, 2007), and the notion of space as political resource in philosophy (e.g., Lefebvre, 1974; Rodner et al., 2020).
Places are conceptualized as “the intersection of a geographic location, a set of meanings and values, and a material form” (Lawrence & Dover, 2015, p. 371 citing Gieryn, 2000). Unlike spaces, places are the product of the shared history of the people inhabiting them, contesting them, transforming them physically and imbuing them with symbolic and emotional meaning (Farny et al., 2019; Gieryn, 2000; Tuan, 1977; Wright et al., 2020). With this in mind, the conceptualization of place in institutional research so far mostly draws on the sociology of place and economic geography (Cresswell, 2015; Fine, 2010; Gieryn, 2000; González & Healey, 2005; Wainwright & Kibler, 2014) and emphasizes the attachment of people to places as well as the unique role place plays in human experience of the social world (Relph, 1976; Tuan, 1974).
These contributions to advancing a “location-sensitive” institutional perspective are promising. They allow for a more situated understanding of institutional processes (Dacin et al., 2019; Dacin et al., 2018; de Vaujany & Vaast, 2014) and help expand our investigative focus away from locality as a stable “container” to how spaces and places are active ingredients in explaining institutional dynamics (Finnegan, 2008). For instance, spaces and places are emphasised as the on-going product of institutional work—e.g. custodians are keepers and makers of place (Dacin et al., 2019; Wright et al., 2020); practitioners are designers of spaces (Cartel et al., 2019). In turn, places and spaces provide unique resources for institutional work, whether they are material (Lawrence & Dover, 2015), cultural (Dacin & Dacin, 2019), or emotional resources (Lawrence, 2017; Farny et al., 2019). Only a few studies have started to investigate the dynamic relationship between spaces and places. Spaces arise and enable the creation of new ideas and practices within and across places (Rodner et al., 2020; Wainwright et al., 2018). Conversely, social practices developed inside spaces can materialize into new places and interpretations of the local (Fine, 2010).
These developments are relatively new and fast. Yet, whereas this emerging body of institutional research addresses broad patterns of locality, only scant attention has been paid to the detailed dynamics of space and place involved in them (Zilber, 2018) as well as their relationship to other aspects of organizing (e.g. custodianship, emotions, materiality, sensemaking, temporality). In addition, as the concepts of space and place are being defined and developed based on different research traditions, it is important to discuss how they converge and diverge, in relation to their theoretical premise and core (social) ontology. Therefore, we see a unique and timely opportunity to foster a fruitful dialogue among the evolving community of scholars that studies spaces and places in institutional and organizational analysis. We are hoping to generate insights to advance both theory and practice in relation to spaces, places and institutions. To this end, we welcome:

  • Conceptual papers drawing on, and combining, alternative intellectual traditions as an attempt to better conceptualize space and/or place in institutional analysis, in their static vs dynamic expression.

  • Methodological reflections on how to best capture the – relationship between – unique socio-material/embodied dimensions of spaces and the unique socio-symbolic and emotional dimensions of places.

  • Empirical papers that deepen our understanding of unique local settings, theorize on novel location-specific institutional mechanisms, as well as help explain how the interplay of space and place can support (or hinder) institutional reproduction and transformation processes.

  • Papers that inspire new, bold discussions on how location-sensitive institutional analyses can better inform our practical undertaking of critical organizational and societal challenges.


  • Canales, R. (2016): “From ideals to institutions: institutional entrepreneurship and the growth of Mexican small business finance.” Organization Science, 27 (6), 1548–1573.
  • Cartel, M., Boxenbaum, E., & Aggeri, F. (2019): “Just for fun! How experimental spaces stimulate innovation in institutionalized fields.” Organization Studies, 40 (1), 65–92.
  • Cresswell, T. (2015): Place: An Introduction. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Dacin, M., Dacin, P., & Kent, D. (2019): “Tradition in organizations: A custodianship framework.” Academy of Management Annals, 13 (1), 342–373.
  • Dacin, T., & Dacin, P. (2019): “Collective social innovation: Leveraging custodianship, tradition and place on Fogo Island.” In: G. George et al. (eds.): Handbook of Inclusive Innovation. The Role of Organizations, Markets and Communities in Social Innovation. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 167–184.
  • Dacin, T., Kent, D., & Zilber, T.B. (2017): “Custodianship of traditions at the intersection of institutions, technologies and place.” Academy of Management Meeting: Proceedings, 1, first published online on November 30, 2017,
  • Dacin, T., Zilber, T.B., & Lounsbury, M. (2018): “Situated institutions: The role of place, space and embeddedness in institutional dynamics.” Academy of Management Meeting: Proceedings, 1, first published online on July 9, 2018,
  • Dacin, T., Zilber, T.B., Tracey, P., Boxenbaum, E., Canniford, R., Dacin, P., Dacin, T., Farny, S., Gray, B., Kibler, E., Putnam, L.L., Shepherd, D., & Svejenova, S. (2019): “Situated institutions: The role of place, space and embeddedness in institutional dynamics.” Academy of Management Meeting: Proceedings, 1, first published online on August 1, 2019,
  • de Vaujany, F.-X., & Vaast, E. (2014): “If these walls could talk: The mutual construction of organizational space and legitimacy.” Organization Science, 25 (3), 713–731.
  • Farny, S., Kibler, E., & Down, S. (2019): “Collective emotions in institutional creation work.” Academy of Management Journal, 62 (3), 765–799.
  • Fine, G.A. (2010): “The sociology of the local: Action and its publics.” Sociological Theory, 28 (4), 355–376.
  • Finnegan, D.A. (2008): “The spatial turn: Geographical approaches in the history of science.” Journal of the History of Biology, 41 (2), 369–388.
  • Furnari, S. (2014): “Interstitial spaces: Microinteraction settings and the genesis of new practices between institutional fields.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (4), 439–462.
  • Gieryn, T.F. (2000): “A space for place in sociology.” Annual Review of Sociology, 26 (1), 463–496.
  • González, S., & Healey, P. (2005): “A sociological institutionalist approach to the study of innovation in governance capacity.” Urban Studies, 42 (11), 2055–2069.
  • Hardy, C., & Maguire, S. (2010): “Discourse, field-configuring events, and change in organizations and institutional fields: Narratives of DDT and the Stockholm convention.” Academy of Management Journal, 53 (6), 1365–1392.
  • Kellogg, K.C. (2009): “Operating room: Relational spaces and microinstitutional change in surgery.” American Journal of Sociology, 115 (3), 657–711.
  • Lawrence, T.B., & Dover, G. (2015): “place and institutional work: Creating housing for the hard-to-house.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60 (3), 371–410.
  • Lefebvre, H. (1974): The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Mair, J., & Hehenberger, L. (2014): “Front-stage and backstage convening: The transition from opposition to mutualistic coexistence in organizational philanthropy.” Academy of Management Journal, 57 (4), 1174–1200.
  • Mair, J., Marti, I., & Ventresca, M.J. (2012): “Building inclusive markets in rural Bangladesh: How intermediaries work institutional voids.” Academy of Management Journal, 55 (4), 819–850.
  • Muniesa, F., & Callon, M. (2007): “Economic experiments and the construction of markets.” In: D. MacKenzie, F. Muniesa & L. Siu (eds.): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 163–189.
  • Polletta, F. (1999): ““Free spaces” in collective action.” Theory and Society, 28 (1), 1–38.
  • Rao, H., & Dutta, S. (2012): “Free spaces as organizational weapons of the weak: Religious festivals and regimental mutinies in the 1857 Bengal native army.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 57 (4), 625–668.
  • Relph, E. (1976): Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.
  • Rodner, V., Roulet, T.J., Kerrigan, F., & vom Lehn, D. (2020): “Making space for art: A spatial perspective of disruptive and defensive institutional work in Venezuela’s art world.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (4), 1054–1081.
  • Tuan, Y.-F. (1974): Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
  • Tuan, Y.-F. (1977): Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Wainwright, T., & Kibler, E. (2014): “Beyond financialization: Older entrepreneurship and retirement planning.” Journal of Economic Geography, 14 (4), 849–864.
  • Wright, A.L., Meyer, A.D., Reay, T., & Staggs, J. (2020): “Maintaining places of social inclusion: Ebola and the emergency department.” Administrative Science Quarterly, first published online on March 20, 2020,
  • Zietsma, C., & Lawrence, T.B. (2010): “Institutional work in the transformation of an organizational field: The interplay of boundary work and practice work.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 55 (2), 189–221.
  • Zilber, T.B. (2018): “Know thy place: Location and imagined communities in institutional field dynamics.” In: J. Glückler, R. Suddaby & R. Lenz (eds.): Knowledge and Institutions, Knowledge and Space. Cham: Springer, 179–194.
Mélodie Cartel is a Lecturer at the School of Management in UNSW Business School, Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on institutional processes of innovation and change. Her current research projects focus on (1) the role of experiments and spaces in institutional processes of innovation and change, and (2) the role of visual and verbal discourse in meaning-making during institutional processes of innovation and change.
M. Tina Dacin is the Stephen J.R. Smith Chaired Professor of Strategy and Organizational Behavior in the Smith School of Business, Queen's University, Canada, and Director of the Community Impact Research Program. Tina’s research interests include cultural heritage, traditions and place-making, and social entrepreneurship. Her work has been published in leading management journals, and she has served in a variety of editorial positions for these journals.
Ewald Kibler is an Assistant Professor at the Aalto University, School of Business, Finland. His work has been published in outlets such as ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Business Venturing’, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice’, ‘Harvard Business Review’, ‘Journal of Economic Geography’, and ‘Environment & Planning A’. His current research projects focus on developing understanding the role of local situatedness, (collective) emotions and community practices in institutional reproduction and transformation processes, especially in the aftermath of crisis and disaster events.
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