Deserving One’s Role? In search of the Political in the Shaping of Professional Acting Space

Kristina Grange

Project Period:
Type: Affiliated Research Project
Program Area(s): Critical Projections


This paper explores how professional acting space is shaped. It does that through a study based on interviews with 22 Swedish architects and clients, conducted in 2009 and 2010. A theoretical starting point is taken in the Danish political scientist Torben Bech Dyrberg’s (1997) conceptualization of power. Dyrberg rejects the causal understanding of power as deriving from capacities posited in the subject. Instead Dyrberg defines power as that which authorises the retroactive construction of such capacities, as if they were presupposed and thus possible to posit in the subject. In the light of such an understanding of power this paper argues that a subject’s, or in this case a profession’s, potential success in shaping acting space hinges on the extent to which it manages to pose its capacities as presupposed. Through interviews with both architects and clients, this paper explores to what extent Swedish architects are successful in such a retroactive positing of capacities.

The paper does not claim to present an average view from the 22 interviews. Rather it aims to identify statements that in effect reflect that which can be understood to authorise, or possibly un-authorise, Swedish architects’ efforts to retroactively posit capacities such as ability, authority and identity as presupposed. The extensive empirical material is presented within seven themes, each bearing signs of power relations. Within these themes both architect and client perceptions are presented. In a following analysis, the empirical findings from the thematic presentation are matched with an analysis of ability, authority and identity. The analysis shows that Swedish architects in many respects experience difficulties in their attempts to posit their capacities as presupposed. As a consequence, it is argued, they struggle to shape their acting space. In the light of these findings, the concluding section presents some thoughts on the political aspects of the above, as well as a discussion on what the implications of an understanding of power as a retroactive action can be for the implementation of new subjectivities within the field of architecture.

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