[We’re pleased to welcome Pedro Monteiro and Davide Nicolini, both of the University of Warwick. Their paper, “Recovering Materiality in Institutional Work: Prizes as an Assemblage of Human and Material Entities,” recently appeared in the January 2015 issue of Journal of Management Inquiry.]
In summer 2014 the Victoria and Albert inaugurated in London an exhibition on the role of objects in movements for social change. From banners to provoke debate, t-shirts and badges that unify a campaign or tents used in peace camps, objects are central for activist groups struggling to alter the world.
The transformations and stability of society is an issue that accompanies the social sciences from its birth. In organization studies, this translates in a field of inquiry on institutional dynamics, that is, the processes through which changes or maintenance of taken-for-granted social elements happen. Traditionally these studies emphasize the (institutional) entrepreneurs and their heroic battles – overlooking that battlefields are usually full of soldiers, not generals, as Brecht puts in his famous “Questions From a Worker Who Reads”.
Bringing attention to the distributed and situated effort of multiple actors, authors proposed the notion of institutional work to shift attention to the struggle (not always coherent or successful) of individuals to change or maintain stabilized practices, industry regulations and similar structures. However, to date, these studies focus mostly on humans despite our daily experience that protests are made not only of human demonstrators, but also signs, loudspeakers and similar materials. The current paper is a call to arms to takes seriously the role of objects in institutional dynamics and embraces a more ecological thinking that focus not on single humans but on the alignment among individuals, materials and discourses in social processes.
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Pedro Monteiro is a PhD researcher at Warwick Business School and visiting student at São Paulo Business Administration School (FGV-EAESP). His doctoral project explores multidisciplinary collaborative work in the development of high-complex products based on ethnographic methods and practice theory. His main interests are around the organizing and work involved in collaboration, knowledge circulation, and innovation. He is also interested in feminist and queer analyses of organizations and the use of visual representations to communicate interpretive methods and theory.
Davide Nicolini is professor of organization studies at Warwick Business School where he codirects the IKON Research Centre. In the past he has held positions at The Tavistock Institute in London and the University of Trento and Bergamo in Italy. His work has appeared in a number of major North American and European journals. His current research focuses on the development of the practice-based approach and its application to phenomena such as knowing, collaboration, innovation, and change in organizations. His latest monograph Practice Theory, Work and Organization. An Introduction was published by Oxford University Press in 2013.