Special issue of Tamara Journal on Materiality & Storytelling

The special issue of Tamara Journal for Critical Organization Inquiry on ‘Materiality & Storytelling’ is guest edited by Anete M. Camille Strand. The issue has developed into a double special issue with a variety of papers ranging from educational institutions, barbershops, IT companies and public organizations. The papers are produced by estimated scholars in the fields as well as newcomers. The double special issue is currently in review and due to be published in 2012. This call is not open for submissions.


Excerpt from the call for papers:


Inspired by, for example, recent theoretical instigations in science studies (Barad, 2007) that ‘matter matters’ this special issue of TAMARA seeks to highlight the manner by which matter comes to matter in organizational story processes. Taking storytelling and discursive practices into the material realm raises the question of the agency of matter to the extent that matter is placed as an agency-force equivalent to that of human agency. This represents a profound conceptual shift well worth exploring in greater depth.

Inquiring into this conceptual shift, this special issue of TAMARA specifically aims at throwing light on the relationship between organizational storytelling (discursive) practices and material (artefactual, bodily, spatial) practices in relation to understanding and dealing with processes of organizational development and organizational inquiry.


Recently, there has been a growing interest in resituating the duality of language and materiality and, subsequently the duality of verbal and nonverbal communication. Both dualities have been prominent in communication studies and in organization studies since the linguistic turn, where the main focus has been solely on language/verbal communication leaving matter/nonverbal communication to be an additional extra. Language has thus become hegemonic over matter perhaps with the implication that too much power has been granted to narrating agents, while sight has been lost of the agency of matter and the use of non-linguistics resources of sense-making (gesture, gaze, other kinds of body movements, communication aids, etc.).

These dualities reflect at a deeper level the Cartesian duality of mind/body. Embodiment has however been well researched and elaborated over the past decades such that it is uncontroversial now that human social interaction is embodied and involves intertwined cooperation of different modalities of equal importance (Stivers & Sidnell, 2005:1). Researchers from several allied fields have recently begun increasingly to document the precise ways in which gesture, gaze, talk and aspects of the material surround are brought together to form coherent courses of action. Within Conversation Analysis (CA) Goodwin’s (2000) concept of ‘contextual configuration’ is but one such example of a methodology for researching embodied social interaction in a multimodal manner that includes the material structure in the surround as an important affordance for agency. Within social psychology Middleton & Brown’s argument that objects can serve as mediational means by which we may establish a particular relationship to some aspect of our past’ (2005:142) is but one example of understanding how material artefacts feature in learning and remembering. Within Science and Technology Studies (STS) Sørensen (2007) is a recent example of a scholar developing concepts of the notion of ‘relational materiality’ on the basis of empirical studies with specifical focus on the use of various teaching artefacts in the situated practice (blackboard, pencils, bodies).

The body of research that here is in short referred to as ‘multimodality & materiality’ has only to a certain degree entered the field of organization studies. Therefore, the possible implications of these studies for the area of organizational learning and development have yet to come together and be fully elaborated. Storytelling has for the past decade been well researched in regard to organizations (Boje 1991, 2008, 2009). However, the combination of multimodality & materiality and organizational storytelling is yet to be explored in depth.

Latourian Actor Network Theory (ANT), Wenger’s notion of ‘reifications’ and Dorothy Smith’s work comes to mind as previous examples of contemporary scholars taking seriously the influence of matter in understanding situated social interaction in organizational living. For this special issue we seek contributions with a critical edge that elaborate the connection between material and discursive practices in organizations.

Proposed themes of the contributions include, (but are not restricted to):

  • The relationship between materiality, power and agency in organizations
  • Storytelling agency
  • Ethnomethodological approaches to organizational practice
  • Discourse analysis and place/space
  • Relational materiality, learning and interaction
  • Multimodality, materiality and identity work
  • Action research, work-place studies
  • Art-based research, aesthetic learning
  • Storytelling aesthetics, story as spatial, material practice
  • Communicative spaces, distributed cognition
  • Material memory devices and organizational learning