Rematerializing the Workaday World
Edited by Alfons van Marrewijk and Dvora Yanow
Chapter 7: Giving Voice to Space: Academic Practices and the Material World
Dvora Yanow We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us. (Winston Churchill, to the House of Commons, 28 October 1943) Organizational scholars studying spaces have a ‘science problem’: to analyse experiences of, in and with organizational spaces, scientific discourse requires words; but space is wordless, as are our experiences of it, overall. Because spaces do not announce themselves through verbal language, they are more easily rendered ‘neutral’ for academic practice, beyond the analytic gaze (by contrast with such fields as human or social geography, architecture and planning, where spatial elements are the raison d’être of the field). So the first difficulty is to de-neutralize them and focus attention on spatial elements in organizational studies domains – to develop a spatial sensibility. Once spatial elements are on the research radar screen, the second problem is to figure out how things have, and convey, meaning, as well as what they mean in specific organizational circumstances. This requires not only attending to space, in a hermeneutic fashion, but also ‘feeling’ space – an intentional act, of imagination, perhaps, but certainly a bodily one of in-dwelling and through-moving, in a phenomenological attitude, attending to one’s sensing. For certain kinds of science, this raises its own issues: these are subjective and largely non-verbal ways of knowing, achieved through the experiences and understandings of a particular knowing subject, which pose challenges for those insisting on more objective ways of knowing that are external to and detached from the knowing scientist (on objectivity, see Bernstein 1983;...
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