Remembering Materiality: A Material–Relational Approach to Organizational Memory

Micki Eisenman*, Michal Frenkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this paper, we develop a material–relational approach to understanding organizational memory. We focus on the inherent materiality of mnemonic devices—material artifacts that anchor shared memories of the past. Mnemonic devices work to constitute social groups of organizational stakeholders bound together by mutual affinities to these devices, known as mnemonic communities. While we know that the materiality of mnemonic devices represents information about the past that is interpreted by members of the mnemonic community as a narrative that is important in the present, our approach focuses on how engagement with the material aspects of mnemonic devices can create relationships of affinity among people remembering together. To develop our conceptualization, we first apply insights from the literature on materiality and its emphasis on how materiality is the basis for non-verbal and relational communication. From this, we theorize four material attributes that affect how mnemonic devices constitute relational connections that create embodied, cartographic, and temporal boundaries for organizational mnemonic communities. We then conceptualize how these distinct material attributes accumulate, intersect, and interact with each other and with the narrative representations of mnemonic devices and how in turn these interactions may bind stakeholders together. By emphasizing the material–relational aspect of mnemonic devices, our paper theorizes a broader and potentially more powerful set of affinities between stakeholders and organizations and, on this basis, enhances extant research by articulating different paths to the emergence of mnemonic communities.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalOrganization Theory
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • materiality
  • mnemonic communities
  • mnemonic devices
  • organizational identity
  • organizational memory
  • relationality


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