Assembling a Zero-waste World: From Situated to Distributed Prefiguration

Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Jacob Hasselbalch*, Johannes Stripple

*Corresponding author for this work

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The concept of prefiguration is drawing increasing interest as a lens to study the collective dynamic and transformative potential of alternative organizing. We introduce an analytical distinction between two modes of prefiguration. Situated prefiguration emphasizes affective bonds and direct struggle taking place in bounded organizational spaces, while distributed prefiguration manifests in wider socio-spatial formations. While situated prefiguration has been studied substantially, distributed prefiguration has so far not been adequately theorized. To conceptualize more spatially dispersed forms of prefiguration, we approach prefiguration from a relational perspective, drawing especially on assemblage thinking, which reveals a different way of thinking about how prefigurative practices are spatially organized. We demonstrate different socio-spatial forms of prefiguration in action through an empirical investigation of the zero-waste phenomenon. Our empirical material is built on site visits, interviews, and online material related to zero-waste stores. We find that zero-waste stores transcend situated prefiguration by being part of a zero-waste assemblage that aims to radically transform the food and retail system through distributed prefiguration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)297-318
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Published online: 4 September 2023.


  • Prefiguration
  • Assemblage
  • Alternative organizing
  • Zero-waste
  • Retail
  • Plastic

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