Sub-theme 26: Psychosocial Approaches to Affect, Materiality and Space in Organizations and Organizing


Michael Fischer, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Marianna Fotaki, The University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Andrew Dickson, Massey University, New Zealand

Call for Papers

Capitalism is increasingly understood as performative, adaptive and organized around innovation or ‘planful opportunism’ (Thrift, 2005) – its underlying ‘assumption’ being the unleashing of creativity and regeneration. As a contemporary ideal, this invites notions of openness, collaboration and cross-pollination. Such trends can be observed in the intermingling of private and public institutions and their respective responsibilities. Narratives of capitalism’s vitality and the erosion of trust in government, finance, healthcare and the media (O’Neill, 2002) loosen old institutional boundaries and re-establish new ones.

Interactions between materiality and people (Knorr-Cetina and Preda, 2005), the functions of boundary objects (Star and Griesemer, 1989) and boundary spaces, and the wider field of sociomateriality (Orlikowski and Scott, 2008) in shifting institutions are increasingly important as we engage with new technologies, materials and interfaces. Yet while capitalism’s ‘vital intensity’ is thought to engineer novel forms of governance – for instance through organizing affective responses (Thrift, 2005) – questions of embodied affect, materiality, and how these intermingle with and become embedded in subjects’ psyches have, until now, been given little attention in the organizational literature (for a review see Ashcraft et al. 2009). Indeed, the animating dynamics of passions, desires and fantasies, evoked and responded to by institutional actors, is an important but neglected dimension of human subjectivity within organization studies.

Recent psychosocial perspectives, drawing on psychoanalytic insights inspired by Winnicott, Kristeva, Lacan and others (see Fotaki et al. 2012) may help elucidate these lacunae. Psychosocial approaches eschew divisions between individual and social, private and public, suggesting new perspectives on the subject’s ability to open up (affective) spaces that are ‘constitutive of new political practices’ (Thrift, 2008). These approaches may offer novel vistas from which to study interactions between relational, material and affective dynamics of organizational space.

This stream’s aim is to explore emotional and intersubjective dynamics at play in such ‘relational entanglements’ (Fischer, 2012), linking embodied human subjectivity and material practices with organizations and societal institutions. Specifically but not exclusively, we invite contributions that examine:

  • how private and collective fantasies and projections may be attached to boundary objects or be evacuated into ‘in-between’ or ‘external’ spaces, in diverse settings;
  • the origins, contents and effects of psychosocial interactions on the material world, arising from relations and experiences in and of organizations;
  • notions of the interpersonal (or social) unconscious in the context of organizational regeneration and its role in developing alternative spacing and politics of affect;
  • how geographies of organization, belonging and attachment redefine spaces ‘of what it is to be political’ (Amin and Thrift, 2005);
  • materiality, affect and the unconscious in broader social and political perspective, drawing on fields including sociology, political studies, anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, feminism, postcolonial studies and queer theory.


Amin, A. and Thrift, N. (2005) ‘What’s left? Just the future’. Antipode, 37(2), pp.220-238.

Ashcraft, K.L., Khun, T.R. and Cooren, F. (2009) ‘Constitutional amendments: materializing organizational communication’. The Academy of Management Annals, 2009, 3(1), pp.1–64.

Fischer, M.D. (2012) ‘Organizational turbulence, trouble and trauma: Theorizing the collapse of a mental health setting’.  Organization Studies, 33(9), pp. 1153-1173.

Fotaki, M., Long, S. and Schwartz, H.S. (2012) ‘What can psychoanalysis offer organization studies today? Taking stock of current developments and thinking about future directions. Organization Studies, 33(9), pp.1104-1120.

Knorr Cetina, K. and Preda, A. (2005) The Sociology of Financial Markets. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Neill, O. (2002) A Question of Trust. 2002 BBC Reith Lectures, Cambridge.

Orlikowski, W. J. and Scott, S. V. (2008) Sociomateriality: challenging the separation of technology, work and organization’. The Academy of Management Annals, 2(1). pp. 433-474.

Star, S.L. and Griesemer, J.R. (1998) ‘Institutional ecology, translations and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology 1907-1939’, Social Studies of Science, 19)3) pp387-420.

Thrift, N. (2008) Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. London: Routledge.

Thrift, N. (2005) Knowing Capitalism. London: Sage.

Michael Fischer is senior research fellow in leadership and organization at University of Oxford, Saïd Business School.  He holds a PhD in organisational behaviour from Imperial College Business School, and is clinically trained as a group psychoanalyst.  His research focuses on ‘backstage’ practices of leadership and organizational work, particularly in the mobilisation and impact of contrasting logics in knowledge-intensive organizations.

Marianna Fotaki is professor of business ethics at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, holds a visiting professorship in Manchester Business School. She is a graduate of medicine, public health, and obtained a PhD in public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Marianna has published over thirty articles in peer-reviewed journals and has books forthcoming on the marketization of public policy, gender and otherness, and business in society.

Andrew Dickson is lecturer in organization studies at Massey University, New Zealand. He is a graduate of biochemistry and business. His PhD was a Lacanian autoethnography of the weight-loss industry. His research interests involve applying a psychoanalytic lens to topics in the wider ‘health’ industry including: the impact of managerialism; gender relations; and embodied alienation in the sport sector.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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