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The history of the office: on the communication between modern administration and citizens in 19th and 20th century Europe


This project explores the spatial dimension of government, namely administrators offices, as its communicative frame and resource of the modern state. The local office has developed as the official contact point between the state and the citizen. Considering the use of the spatial order of the office as a means to structure the interaction between civil servants and citizens, this project launches a new approach to understand the use of physical spaces for the exercise of authority and the way in which state and civil society relate to each other.
The aim of this project is to contribute to current debates on space and power in administrative science, human geography, urban studies, sociology and history. Using the spatial organisation of offices in civic ad ministration, this project employs an analytical perspective that integrates approaches of different disciplines and establishes a new field of research in cultural studies of public administration together with a new perspective on the exercise of authority.
The lines of research develop in 4 directions: First, the more general focus is directed at the communicative and representative function of office design for the political regimes and the spatial language they used to communicate and legitimise authority.
The second dimension investigates the concepts and expectations regarding daily communicative interactions occurring in offices, between civil servants and citizens. Thirdly, the project asks for the various levels of interaction between the state and its environment in relation to the development of administration and its offices. In other words, how did developments in economy, law, art, science and technology contribute to the transformation of government offices? A final aspect brings the trans-national European dimension in and contributes to the study of the transfer of `office concepts and related administrative models between the states under examination.

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Old college, South Bridge
Reino Unido

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