Public Administration Borderlands: Working the boundaries of public services

I am currently working on a bid to the Australian Research Council focusing on boundaries and their place in the study of Public Administration.  The argument I am making is that although boundaries appear everywhere in Public Administration, they are given little critical attention.  We are asking public services and public servants to work across boundaries more than ever before and yet we lack good evidence and frameworks for how to do this.  Typically boundaries are thought of as being singular, static and material entities and insufficient work has been done to develop a more dynamic account of boundaries.  Public Administration isn’t alone here and Organisational Theory also struggles with these sorts of issues – see Loizos Heracleous’s analysis of this .

In my research proposal I say that I will draw on broader literature to help construct a more dynamic account of boundaries and that I also want to do some empirical work looking at how individuals and organisations do boundary work and how individuals shift their identity as they do this.

The broader material I am going to draw on to do this theoretical work comes from the renaissance of border studies that we have seen over the last 15 years or so.  Whilst borders used to be simply considered to be the frontiers of territories, over this period there have been significant shifts in terms of what borders are, the forms they take, their impacts and the ways in which border-work is conducted. I started off life as a geographer and it is always nice to go back to your roots.  Some of the advances made in this field should help with developing a new way of theorising boundaries which I then hope to test empirically.

In this category I will bring together readings on this topic and some of my thinking as it emerges.  I’d also be keen to hear from anyone who has an interest in boundaries and how we might construct a more complete account of these – or if you know of interesting articles that I might want to take a look at.

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