Smell organization: bodies and corporeal porosity in office work

Kathleen Riach, Samantha Warren

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    This article contributes to a sensory equilibrium in studies of workplace life through a qualitative study of everyday smells in UK offices. Drawing on Csordas’ (2008) phenomenology of intercorporeality, we develop the concept of corporeal porosity as a way of articulating the negotiation of bodily integrity in organizational experience. We explore the corporeal porosity of workplace life through smell-orientated interview and diary-based methods and our findings highlight the interdependence of shared, personal, local and cultural elementals when experiencing smell in office-based work. Our analysis explores three elements of bodily integrity: ‘cultural permeability’; ‘locating smell in-between’; and ‘sensual signifiers’. This suggests that while the senses are part of the ephemeral, affective ‘glue’ that floats between and around working bodies, they also foreground the constantly active character of relationality in organizational life. Corporeal porosity, therefore, captures the entanglement of embodied traces and fragments – corporeal seeping and secretion that has hitherto taken a backseat in organizational studies of the body at work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)789-809
    Number of pages21
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number5
    Early online date9 Oct 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


    • body at work
    • corporeal porosity
    • Csordas
    • intercorporeality
    • organizational embodiment
    • sensory methods
    • smell


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