Organizational memorialization: spatial history and legitimation as chiasms

François Xavier de Vaujany, Emmanuelle Vaast, Stewart R. Clegg, Jeremy Aroles

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand how historical materialities might play a contemporary role in legitimation processes through the memorialization of history and its reproduction in the here-and-now of organizations and organizing. Design/methodology/approach: The authors briefly review the existing management and organization studies (MOS) literature on legitimacy, space and history; engage with the work of Merleau-Ponty to explore how organizational legitimacy is managed in time and space; and use the case of two Parisian universities to illustrate the main arguments of the paper. Findings: The paper develops a history-based phenomenological perspective on legitimation processes constitutive of four possibilities identified by means of chiasms: heterotopic spatial legacy, thin spatial legacy, institutionalized spatial legacy and organizational spatial legacy. Research limitations/implications: The authors discuss the implications of this research for the neo-institutional literature on organizational legitimacy, research on organizational space and the field of management history. Originality/value: This paper takes inspiration from the work of Merleau-Ponty on chiasms to conceptualize how the temporal layers of space and place that organizations inhabit and inherit (which we call “spatial legacies”), in the process of legitimation, evoke a sensible tenor.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • History
  • Legitimation
  • Memorialization
  • Merleau-Ponty
  • Space
  • Spatial legacy
  • Time

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