Coffee break: the intertextual production of liminal spaces in the workplace

Lucas, Mike and Wright, Alex (2015). Coffee break: the intertextual production of liminal spaces in the workplace. In: APROS/EGOS Colloquium 2015, Sub-Theme 19: The Liminality of Organizational Spaces, 9-11 Dec 2015, UTS Sydney, Australia.


While liminal spaces have been highlighted as important constitutive phenomena for how organization materializes, studies (e.g. Sturdy, Schwarz & Spicer, 2006) have tended to focus on liminality external to the organization; liminal spaces inside the organization are only very recently beginning to be seriously considered (Shortt, 2015). This paper addresses this and examines how actors contribute recursively to the production of liminal spaces in the workplace by their movement from their working area to take a refreshment break. This brief journey through corridors, stairways, and eating areas, involving human and non-human inter/action, we argue, is part of an ongoing process of intertextuality which produces an embodied, relational and political space of liminality.Researching this complex and under-theorized area, we bring together the methods of co-constructed auto-ethnography offered by Learmonth and Humphries (2011) and visual auto-ethnography (Watson, 2009) in examining the empirical photographic work of one of the authors. The result is a mutually elicited image-text (Warren, 2002) reflecting the ongoing dialogue between the co-authors about space and its production. Theoretically we draw on Barthes’ (1977) approach to reflective photographic practice, to examine the authors’ understandings of photographs of liminal (work-)spaces, as “genotexts” (Kristeva, 1980) in the production of a “paratext” (Genette, 1997; Gray, 2010), which engages ‘readers’ in the intertextual, dialogic (Bakhtin, 1981) process of spatial production. Our paper will contribute to theory through drawing on photographs of liminal experiences to articulate how the notions of paratext and genotext constitute an intertextual framing of liminal spaces in the workplace.

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