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Boundary objects, power, and learning: The matter of developing sustainable practice in organizations

Hawkins, Beverley; Pye, Annie; Correia, Fernando


Beverley Hawkins

Annie Pye

Fernando Correia


This article develops an understanding of the agential role of boundary objects in generating and politicizing learning in organizations, as it emerges from the entangled actions of humans and non-humans. We offer two empirical vignettes in which middle managers seek to develop more sustainable ways of working. Informed by Foucault’s writing on power, our work highlights how power relations enable and foreclose the affordances, or possibilities for action, associated with boundary objects. Our data demonstrate how this impacts the learning that emerges as boundary objects are configured and unraveled over time. In so doing, we illustrate how boundary objects are not fixed entities, but are mutable, relational, and politicized in nature. Connecting boundary objects to affordances within a Foucauldian perspective on power offers a more nuanced understanding of how ‘the material’ plays an agential role in consolidating and disrupting understandings in the accomplishment of learning.


Hawkins, B., Pye, A., & Correia, F. (2017). Boundary objects, power, and learning: The matter of developing sustainable practice in organizations. Management Learning, 48(3), 292-310.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 11, 2015
Online Publication Date Nov 22, 2016
Publication Date Jul 1, 2017
Deposit Date Nov 21, 2016
Publicly Available Date Nov 22, 2016
Journal Management learning
Print ISSN 1350-5076
Electronic ISSN 1461-7307
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 3
Pages 292-310
Keywords Action learning; Affordances; Boundary objects; Learning; Materiality; Power
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Authors' accepted manuscript of article published in: Management learning, 2016, v.48, issue 3


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