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You're Grounded! Towards a theory of enactive legitimation, materiality and practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Davide Nicolini, Juliane Reinecke, Muhammad Aneeq Ismail

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2020


King's Authors


In this paper, we explore the specific nature of material-based legitimation and examine how it differs from other forms of legitimation. Prior studies of institutional legitimacy have predominantly focused on the discursive and iconic aspects of legitimation, with much less focus placed on the role of materiality. To advance our argument, we introduce the notion of enactive legitimation. We suggest that legitimation is derived from and supported by the ongoing engagement and interaction with materials and material-based practices. To elaborate our argument, we study a case of the use of material signification to legitimise a new financial product within Islamic banking. We show that the legitimacy of the product is grounded in materials and the materiality of a number of ritualised practices. Materials and practices, however, also impose their own specific constraints on the process, and do so in ways that are more evident than when legitimation is based on signs and symbols (both language and images). The paper contributes to practice-based institutionalism by leveraging one of the central tenets of practice theory to extend the understanding of legitimation. It also illustrates what practice-based sensitivity may look like in action.

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