Sub-theme 59: Things Ain't What They Used to Be: Objects, Relations, Materiality

Dean Pierides
University of Melbourne, Australia
Jon Roffe
University of Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Andrew Linstead
University of York, UK

Call for Papers

Organization studies is contributing to a broader effort in the social sciences and humanities to reconceptualise how objects participate in social practices. This commitment to eclipse the subject-object divide is evidenced by rising interest in ontological problems across otherwise incompatible organizational research and methods. For example, organizational scholars focusing on very different objects – such as institutions, financial instruments, technologies, decision-making, design, service delivery, strategies and discourses – have all called for increased attention to materiality in recent years. New communities are forming within organization studies, developing different ontologies of objects and their relations. We explicitly seek to bring together researchers from different communities, including other disciplines, to explore, compare and extend the ontologies of objects and relations that are developing in organization studies.

While some relevant scholarship already exists – e.g. Cooper's (2005) essay on relationality and Munro's (2005) essay on partial organization, but also recent work in process organization studies (e.g. Carlile et al., 2013; Hernes, 2008), actor-network theory (e.g. Alcadipani & Hassard, 2010), economic sociology (e.g. Pinch & Swedberg, 2008) and practice theory (e.g. Feldman & Orlikowski, 2011) – this list could be significantly expanded. We therefore invite papers that open up or extend organization studies in new directions, such as:

  • Towards a new materialism: Take stock of, compare or extend competing ontologies of objects and relations in parallel lines of organizational research.
  • Towards indigenous management theory: Address whether an 'indigenous theory of management and organization' (Suddaby et al., 2011) is being cultivated by these new developments in organization studies.
  • Towards a new relationality: Intersubjectivity has been proposed as a means to transcend the subject-object divide (e.g. Cunliffe, 2010), but are relevant relations only between human beings?
  • Towards an ontology of practice and process: The distinction between an ontology of being and of becoming is one of the assumptions behind process and practice theories of organization (see critique by du Gay & Vikkelsø, 2012). But where do objects find their place in practice and process thinking?
  • Objects as stories, objects as theories: Extend Linstead and Grafton-Small's (1990) development of the idea that objects both embody theories of their production, and are used to theorise relations of production.

Concurrently, new paradigmatic boundaries decide what influences are considered acceptable. This prevents organizational scholars from engaging with other disciplines that are, even if incidentally, concerned with organizations and the ontology of objects and relations. Against this, we invite papers that:

  • Introduce new influences, incompatible with or challenging to existing ontologies within organization studies.
  • Use scholarship from social sciences and humanities engaging with materiality and inviting organizational scholarship.
  • Extend scholarship on the ontology of objects and relations to the study of organization.
  • Explore new methods and methodologies relating to the creation and representation of objects and relations.

We invite submissions on any substantive topic. More specifically, but not exclusively, research on institutions, finance, markets, disasters, technology, strategy, consumption, identity, resistance and discourse is welcome. In sum, we invite papers on any empirical and theoretical topics in organization studies responding to these questions: What are the different ontologies of objects and relations in organization studies? How can they be compared, how do they compare? What life is available to objects? In answering these questions, or others that you consider relevant and wish to address, the ultimate goal of papers submitted to this session should be to develop novel grounds for extending organizational research.



Alcadipani, Rafael & John Hassard (2010): 'Actor-Network Theory, organizations and critique: towards a politics of organizing.' Organization, 17 (4), pp. 419–435.
Carlile, Paul R., Davide Nicolini, Ann Langley & Haridimos Tsoukas (2013): How Matter Matters: Objects, Artifacts, and Materiality in Organization Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cooper, Robert (2005): 'Relationality.' Organization Studies, 26 (11), pp. 1689–1710.
du Gay, Paul & Signe Vikkelsø (2012): 'Reflections: On the Lost Specification of "Change".' Journal of Change Management, 12 (2), pp. 121–143.
Feldman, Martha S. & Wanda J. Orlikowski (2011): 'Theorizing Practice and Practicing Theory.' Organization Science, 22 (5), pp. 1240–1253.
Hernes, Tor (2008): Understanding Organization as Process: Theory for a Tangled World. London: Routledge.
Linstead, Stephen A. & Robert Grafton-Small (1990): 'Theory as Artefact: Artefact as Theory.' In: Pasquale Gagliardi (ed.): Symbols and Artefacts: Views of the Corporate Landscape. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, pp. 387–419.
Munro, Rolland (2005): 'Partial organization: Marilyn Strathern and the elicitation of relations.' The Sociological Review, 53, pp. 245–266.
Pinch, Trevor & Richard Swedberg (2008): Living in a Material World: Economic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Suddaby, Roy, Cynthia Hardy & Quy Nguyen Huy (2011): 'Where are the new theories of organization?' Academy of Management Review, 36 (2), pp. 236–246.


Dean Pierides Research Fellow in the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Co-director of the Centre for Organization, Society and Markets (COSM). He is also a previous co-convenor at EGOS and Board Member of the Research Committee on the Sociology of Organization of the International Sociological Association. His research focuses primarily on emergency management, risk, markets and knowledge. His recent article in the 'British Journal of Sociology' explores organizational problems in disaster management and argues that it is necessary for material-semiotic accounts to retain a central place for the emergence of objects.
Jon Roffe is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Management and Marketing, University of Melbourne, Australia, developing an abstract theory of the market in the area of organization studies. He has published widely on issues in French philosophy, is editor of the journal 'Parrhesia' and most recently, author of "Badiou's Deleuze" (Acumen).
Stephen Andrew Linstead is Professor of Critical Management, Director of Postgraduate Research and Director of the Centre for the Study of Working Lives at the York Management School, University of York, UK.