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ARCOM Conferences

34rd Annual Conference – Cambridge, UK
3-5 September 2018

Track 7: Institutionalising Construction Management Research?

Lead: Paul W Chan, The University of Manchester (paul.chan@manchester.ac.uk); Sonja Dragojlovic-Oliveira, University of West of England

Organisational institutionalism offers a powerful framework that opens up the analysis of routines and practices beyond the realm of individual actions, behaviours and choice. The use of institutional theory in studying the affairs and practices of the construction industry has grown in popularity among construction management researchers (see Chan, forthcoming for a recent review of scholarship in this space). Scholars in construction management have used related concepts of institutional pillars (Scott, 2001), isomorphic change (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983) and institutional logics (Thornton and Ocasio, 2008) to explain culture and cross-cultural interactions in the construction industry (e.g. Chi and Javernick-Will, 2011), how particular practices become stabilised in the construction industry, such as the persistence of general contracting in British construction (e.g. Mtar, 2010). More recently, scholars begin to examine institutional work in explaining the transformation of the construction industry, for instance, in environmental sustainability (Gluch and Bosch-Sijtsema, 2016) and energy modelling in architecture (Oliveira et al., 2017).

While organisational institutionalism has enriched our understanding of how some practices in the construction industry have changed while others have continued, the institutional dynamics that shape knowledge production in the field of construction management is somewhat overlooked. There are notable exceptions. For instance, Langford and Hughes (2009) traced the story of construction management in Building a Discipline, a book project intended as a reflective piece as ARCOM celebrated its 25th anniversary. More recently, Harty and Leiringer (2017) considered the institutional landscape (e.g. research funding priorities and trends in publications) to suggest four possible futures for construction management research. Despite these reflections, institutional theory has often been used to frame our study of industry practices as the object of inquiry, rather than to subject our field to critical analysis to deepen our understanding of changing ways in which knowledge in and about the field of construction management is produced, and with what consequences.

Contemporarily, scholars in related fields such has project management have begun a reflexive journey to better articulate the schools of thinking that underpin project management research (e.g. Søderlund, 2011), and how ‘interesting’ research questions are constructed (see Hällgren, 2012, and also; Alvesson and Sandberg, 2013). A genealogy (cf. Foucault, 2002) of the production of construction management knowledge is arguably long overdue. In this track, we seek interesting papers that contribute to a better understanding of the institutional dynamics and effects of the production of construction management knowledge. Papers can be theoretical, methodological and empirical, and we also welcome provocative essays that align with this track. Authors may also be guided by the following questions:


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