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Putting power in its place : the centrality of edgelands

Hirst, A.; Humphreys, M.

Putting power in its place : the centrality of edgelands Thumbnail


A. Hirst

M. Humphreys


Many organizations use spatial reconfiguration as an attempt to transform and modernize their work practices and external image. While most studies have focused on the way high status new offices are used to showcase putatively changed organizational practices, less attention has been paid to the peripheral sites which service them. Drawing on a longitudinal ethnographic study of an initiative to modernize a UK local authority via spatial redesign, we analyse the relationship between a new strategic centre office building and a paper storage unit situated in an ‘edgeland’. Edgelands are interfacial areas between town and country and are sites where essential but despised functions are located (Shoard, 1992). Based on an understanding of power as something that is created through relationships with nonhuman actors, we foreground the spatial and temporal agency of buildings, artefacts and places. We show how ‘modernization’ involves attempts to create a purified space constructed only from human and material actors deemed ‘modern’, and expel that which is designated as outdated. In our study, the edgeland site functioned to maintain the centre as a pristine environment in which fluid networking could flourish, and preserve the external image of the organization as transformed and modernized. Thus, we illustrate the dependence of high status workplaces on functions, objects and people which contradict projected desired images.


Hirst, A., & Humphreys, M. (2013). Putting power in its place : the centrality of edgelands. Organization Studies, 34(10), 1505-1527.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 1, 2013
Deposit Date Mar 19, 2013
Publicly Available Date Dec 21, 2013
Journal Organization Studies
Print ISSN 0170-8406
Electronic ISSN 1741-3044
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 10
Pages 1505-1527
Keywords Actor-network theory, Centre, Edgelands, Modernization, Organizational space, Periphery, Power
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (281 Kb)

Copyright Statement
The final definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal Organization studies, 34/10, 2013 © The Author(s) 2013 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Organization studies page: on SAGE Journals Online:

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