Institutional maintenance as narrative acts

Tammar B. Zilber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

124 Scopus citations


IN this chapter, I address the forms of institutional work involved in symbolic institutional maintenance. Taking a narrative approach, I define symbolic institutional maintenance as the travel of institutional stories across social levels, and I explore the forms of institutional work used to translate societal meta-narratives into organizations and the lives of individuals. Based on the study of a rape crisis center in Israel, I examine the maintenance of the feminist and therapeutic institutions within which the organization was embedded. I follow the feminist and therapeutic meta-narratives prevalent in Israeli society, as they traveled into, and were modified by, the rape crisis center. Further, I follow the use of these societal-level narratives, and the organizational versions thereof, by organizational members, as they strove to make sense of their own lives and identities. I conceptualize this series of narrative acts as institutional maintenance, worked out in the interfaces of various social levels; embedded in power relations; and involving the delicate balance of duplication and change. At the societal level, institutions are embodied within diverse meta-narratives that encode the “taken-for-granted” in shared poetic tropes, like protagonists and villains, dramatic settings and plots. Organizational members carry these institutional meta-narratives into the organization. Still, societal meta-narratives that are taken up within organizations do not simply duplicate the institutional order. Rather, through reinterpretation organizational elites translate them into local – more specific and selective – versions, which are then used in organizational sense-making processes.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationInstitutional work
Subtitle of host publicationActors and agency in institutional studies of organizations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9780511596605
ISBN (Print)9780521518550
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2009.


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