The Bakhtinian Theory of Chronotope (Time–Space Frame) Applied to the Organizing Process

Philippe Lorino and Benoît Tricard

in Constructing Identity in and around Organizations

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199640997
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738388 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives on Process Organization Studies

The Bakhtinian Theory of Chronotope (Time–Space Frame) Applied to the Organizing Process

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Adopting a process view of organizations (Tsoukas and Chia, 2002), what kind of process is the organizing process? This chapter begins by arguing that the organizing process is an inherently narrative abductive inquiry. Taking a praxeological (purposeful activity-focused) rather than discursive (language and discourse-focused) view of narrativity, it concentrates on the narrativity of organizing processes per se, rather than specific narrative objects (texts) or practices (storytelling) within organizations. The second part of the chapter studies the presupposed, tacit, often invisible, and generic narrative frames (“architextures”) by which narrative practices must abide to make sense in a given cultural environment. A key “architexture” is the chronotope, or time–space frame of narratives, theorized by Bakhtin (1981), who viewed the close integration of time and space as the basis of narrative social intelligibility. This concept is applied here to organizing inquiries. Referring to Deleuze’s extended view of chronotope (Deleuze, 1984/2006) and Genette’s theory of narrative levels (Genette, 1972), the chapter analyzes situations in which the organizational chronotope is destabilized by actions that transgress narrative boundaries (“metalepsis”). Some organizational actors may then “scream” to reaffirm and defend the normal time–space frame, defying rational discourse. We then present two case studies showing the connections between time–space structures, meaning-making schemes, and professional identities: (a) a historical analysis of the computer industry move from manufacturing to services in the 1990s and its time–space dimension; and (b) the disruption, for work safety reasons, of the traditional building industry’s “project design,” “project preparation,” and “on-site building” sequence. In both cases, metalepsis situations drew “screams” from key organizational actors. Finally, we explore the theoretical, methodological, and practical perspectives the chronotope concept offers to organization studies.

Keywords: Bakhtin; chronotope; Deleuze; identity; inquiry; narrative; organizing process; space; time

Chapter.  12657 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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