Machine baptisms and heroes of the underground: Performing sociomateriality in an Amsterdam metro project

Leonore van den Ende*, Alfons van Marrewijk, Kees Boersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to apply the theory of sociomateriality to exhibit how the social and material are entangled and (re)configured over time and in practice in a particular organization of study. Design/methodology/approach – The authors conduct an ethnographic case study of the North-South metro line project in Amsterdam and use the methods of participant-observation, in-depth interviewing and a desk study. Findings – The authors showcase the process of sociomaterial entanglement by focussing on the history and context of the project, the agency and performativity of the material and sociomaterial (re)configuration via ritual performance. The authors found the notion of performativity not only concern the enactment of boundaries between the social and material, but also the blurring of such boundaries. Research limitations/implications – Sociomateriality theory remains difficult to grasp. The implication is the need to provide new lenses to engage this theory empirically. Practical implications – The authors provide a multi-layered lens for organization researchers to engage sociomateriality theory at a contextual, organizational and practice level. Social implications – Insights from a historical and contextual perspective can help practitioners to become aware of the diverse and dynamic ways in which social and material entities are entangled and (re)configured over time and in practice. Originality/value – The authors provide a unique empirical account to exhibit the entanglement and (re)configuration between the social and material in a particular organization of study. This paper studies a tangible organizational setting whereas prior research in sociomateriality mainly focussed on routines in IT and IS. Finally, the authors suggest the ethnographic method to study sociomaterial entanglement from a historical and contextual perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-280
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Entanglement
  • Performance
  • Performativity
  • Project organization
  • Ritual
  • Sociomateriality

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