Local Meaning-making in Discursive, Embodied and Affective Registers

Justine Grønbæk Pors*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to argue and explore how local meaning-making processes of leaders also occur in embodied and affective registers. The paper aims to introduce the theoretical concept of affect to studies of local public leadership.
Design/methodology/approach: The paper reports from an ethnographic study of local leaders managing educational institutions in Denmark. The paper takes a constructivist or interpretive approach where it is acknowledged that data is not just out-there ready to be collected and reported but is constructed and interpreted in particular manners as part of the complex encounter between researcher and field.
Findings: The paper zooms in one particular instance where a leader breaks down in tears and where the tears seem to evoke a particular affective atmosphere. Thus, the paper shows how, just below the elite narrative of a need for stronger, individual and more evidence-based management, we find a myriad of meaning-making processes that transgress distinctions between the corporeal, affective and discursive.
Research limitations/implications: As an ethnography conducted in a local setting, the paper avoids broad generalisations. The findings reflect the theoretical ambition of discussing the role of embodiment and affect in local leadership as much as the studied setting.
Practical implications: The study testify to how policy implementation can take many unexpected turns as local leaders interpret and make sense of policy ambitions in many different ways. Moreover, it testifies to how leaders are informed by embodied experiences and affective atmospheres in their sense-making processes.
Originality/value: The paper is one of the first attempts in public leadership to discuss the role of embodiment and affect in local public leadership.
TidsskriftInternational Journal of Public Leadership
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)247-264
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 2021

Bibliografisk note

Published online: 28 December 2020.


  • Affect
  • Ethnography
  • Embodiment
  • Education policy
  • Local leadership
  • Decentered theory