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Objects in exile: the intimate structures of resistance and consolation

Ricky Yuk‐kwan Ng (Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong)
Heather Höpfl (University of Essex, Colchester, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 18 October 2011




This paper looks at small spaces. In particular, it aims to focus on small gestures of resistance and the objects which accompany them. It takes its inspiration from Goffman's “secondary adjustments”, in other words, from reactions to organizational socialization, but draws most of its theoretical support from the literature of exile and architectural concepts of structure.


The paper is located in the interpretative paradigm and draws on Goffman's observations, photographic approaches, and artistic and literary works on exile. It does not work with psycho‐analytic approaches to object‐relations and has merely an affinity with science and technology studies.


The primary findings concern the relationship between work and its other. At a time when work has extended to define all areas of life, the paper considers the relationship between exile and homeland, between memories and aides memoires. The paper examines the intimate relationship between the prevailing conditions of exile and the miniscule gestures which might help to give consolation, offer compensation and serve as resistance to the relentless demands of work.

Practical implications

The paper outlines some of the conceptual concerns. An empirically based study will follow. Its practical relevance lies in its questioning the blurring of boundaries between home and work and raises issues about the importance of personal belongings in the workspace.


The paper's originality lies in the emphasis it gives to the small spaces of resistance which it characterises.



Yuk‐kwan Ng, R. and Höpfl, H. (2011), "Objects in exile: the intimate structures of resistance and consolation", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 751-766.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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