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Managing Overflow

About the programme, Funding, Members, Projects, Publications

About the programme

"Managing Overflow" is a transdisciplinary research program, in which a combined team of ethnologists and management scholars explores the complex phenomenon in contemporary western societies – overflow. The term is ambiguous: Overflow can be interpreted in terms of affluence and surplus, or wastefulness and overload. As a metaphor, overflow is a morally charged term, which implicitly signals some kind of directionality, at the same time alluding to the existence of a point of equilibrium, balance or normality. It denotes a movement between different states and a transgression of borders.

This research program aims at exploring the tensions between these meanings, and the ethical, economic, and aesthetic consequences the degfinitions of overflow have in everyday life and work. While firmly grounded in field studies, the program aims at constructing a theoretical frame of reference adequate for grasping the multiple variations of this phenomenon. Contrasting cases are used to examine many of the taken-for-granted notions, and a historical perspective assures a dynamic take on the phenomenon. We aim at producing knowledge useful both to scholars and to a generally interested audience.


Managing Overflow has been developed with seed money from Västsvenska foundation and from Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius foundation. During 2015-2017 Managing Overflow is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.


Senior Professor Barbara Czarniawska (program director)
Professor Emeritus Orvar Löfgren (program director)

Professor Helene Brembeck
Professor Jonathan Metzger
Associate Professor Lars Norén
Professor György Péteri
Associate Professor Elena Raviola
Associate Professor Agneta Ranerup
FD Jakob Wenzer


1. Imagining abundance in an economy of shortage
2. Coping with abundance in an affluent economy
3. Digital bureaucracy and the overflow of desires and options
4. Pacifying climate change with Integrated Assessment Modeling
5. Neuro-energetic overflows
6. Managing creativity
7. Mass travel and crowd control

1. Imagining abundance in an economy of shortage (György Péteri cooperation with NTNU)

Péteri will analyze discourses of consumerism in the centrally planned economy of Hungary in the years 1958-1975. His project will focus on an important but understudied aspect of the socialist bloc: the emergence of socialist consumerism. Using reform-communist Hungary as a case, the study will depict central planning aiming at control of a not-yet existing overflow. What happened was that the breakthrough of modern consumerism in the first decade after 1956 brought with it vexing problems for the communist elites. What should differentiate the newly emerging socialist consumerism from the capitalist consumerism? In the study, the arising tensions will be illustrated by the analysis of selected episodes in the history of the Hungarian government's attempts to engage in long term planning in the late 1960s.

2. Coping with abundance in an affluent economy (Helene Brembeck)

Brembeck will study coping strategies of domestic consumption in Sweden in the light of the debate about hyper consumption. How do households handle the accelerating number of objects at home, when instructed by the media that they need to do so? In this case, the answers are provided not by the state, but by companies offering services – of de-cluttering, re-organization and storage. Of special interest is self-storage: a new commercial replacement for everyday storage in attics and basements. The burgeoning growth of this market says much about the times we live in, and about present ways to solve problems of overflow.

3. Digital bureaucracy and the overflow of desires and options (Lars Norén)

Norén’s study will use the concept of digital bureaucracy to analyze web portals used to actualize the freedom of choice in healthcare. These web portals can be regarded as bureaucratic tools used by politicians for the distribution of the services that the state offers the citizens. It could be hypothesized that the attempt to manage overflow of patients has been thus translated into an overflow of choices for the patients, in this way shifting the burden of coping to the citizens.

4. Pacifying climate change with Integrated Assessment Modeling (Jonathan Metzger in cooperation with KTH)

In climate change policymaking, “Big Data” creates as many problems as solutions it promises. In search for ways of managing climate change, new powerful devices and technologies are created, such as IAM. It permits to model the impact of various policy measures on carbon emissions in the atmosphere, promising to indicate optimum policy measures to decrease the damage in a specific entity – a country, a city, or the entire planet. Will the use of this new and complex device deliver more than just an illusion of control?

5. Neuro-energetic overflows (Jakob Wenzer)

The purpose of Wenzer's study is to understand and conceptualize the overflows caused or channeled by or through the neuropsychiatric diagnosis ADHD. These are overflows of different orders: unruly situations in schools with overflowing energy in the class room, an overflow of patients in neuropsychiatric institutions and finally an overflow of new diagnoses and symptoms, as ADHD had proven to be a container of many very different neurological traits. The study will include interviews, media and literature analysis.

6. Managing creativity (Elena Raviola)

Raviola's study will focus on how the overflow of office space meets the overflow of creative workers and how this encounter contributes to the self-management of these overflows. It will take an action-nets approach to investigate the community of creative freelancers in Gothenburg and their organizations, with a special focus to the role of creative office hotels and other creative initiatives taking place in unutilized spaces in town, particularly in the field of journalism and design.

7. Mass travel and crowd control (Orvar Löfgren in cooperation with Lund University)

The development of modern mass travel, from urban commuting to tourism, created new problems of how to handle overflows of people. Old institutional frameworks and technologies had to be replaced by new ones. How were crowds of customers to be handled for example in transit spaces like the urban railway station or the airport?



  • Publications

    Publications from Managing Overflow



    Orvar Löfgren (2017) “Mess: On domestic overflows”. Consumption, Markets & Culture, 20 (1): 1-6.

    Barbara Czarniawska (2017) “A willing slave: reflections on e-books." Consumption, Markets & Culture, 20(4): 364-367.


    György Péteri (2016) “Contested socialisms: the conflict between critical sociology and reform economics in communist Hungary, 1967–71”, Social History, 41(3): 249-266

    György Péteri (2016) “Demand side abundance: On the post-1956 social contract in communist Hungary”, Journal East Central Europe 43(3): 315-343

    Orvar Löfgren (2016) “Containing the past, the present and the future: Packing a suitcase. Croatian Journal of Ethnology and Folklore Research, 53(1): 59-74.


    Hansson, Niklas & Brembeck, Helene (2015) Market Hydraulics and Subjectivities in the “Wild”: Circulations of the Flea Market. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research 2000-1525. ; 7:1, s. 91-121


    Brembeck, H, Cochoy, F & Moisander, J (2014) Editorial for Moving Consumption. Consumption, Markets and Culture 1025-3866 .- 1477-223X. ; 18:1, s. 1-9


    Czarniawska, Barbara (2013) Is speed good? Scandinavian Journal of Management, 29 (1): 7-12.

    Forsemalm, Joakim (2013) From Creep to Co-op: Research(er) Paying the Cost of Displacement. Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, 5 s. 385-397.


    Czarniawska, Barbara (2012) W żelaznej klatce narracji. Kultura Popularna. Acta Sueco-Polonica, 32(2): 60-84.

    Czarniawska, B. (2012) Operational risk, translation, and globalization. Contemporary Economics, 6(2): 26-39



    Brembeck, H., Hansson, N., Lalanne, M. & Vayre, J-S, (2015) Life phases, mobility and consumption. An ethnography of shopping routines. Ashgate.


    Czarniawska, Barbara (2014) A theory of organizing. Second edition. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. In Swedish: (2015) En teori om organisering. Andra utgåvan. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

    Czarniawska, Barbara (2014) Social science research from field to desk. London: Sage. (In Swedish: Ute på fältet, inne vid skrivbordet. Lund: Studentlitteratur).


    Czarniawska, Barbara & Löfgren, Orvar (2013) Coping with excess: How organizations, communities and individuals manage overflows. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.


    Czarniawska, Barbara (2012) Cyberfactories: How news agencies produce news. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Barbara Czarniawska & Orvar Löfgren (eds.) (2012) Managing overflow in affluent societies. New York: Routledge.


    Czarniawska, Barbara (2014) The codification of everything. In: Pallas, Josef; Strannegård, Lars & Jonsson, Stefan (eds.) Organizations and the media. Organizing in a medialized world. Abingdon, Oxton: Routledge,132-144.

    Metzger, Jonathan (2014) The mooser are protesting. In J. Metzger et al (eds) Displacing the political. London: Routledge.

    Raviola, Elena (2014) What is good news? In: Pallas, J., and Strannegård, L. (eds) Organizations and the Media – Organizing in a Mediatized World. London: Routledge.

    Czarniawska, Barbara & Löfgren, Orvar (2013) Changing perspectives on the management of overflow. In: Czarniawska, Barbara and Löfgren, Orvar (eds) Coping with excess: How organizations, communities and individuals manage overflows. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1-10.

    Löfgren, Orvar and Czarniawska, Barbara (2012) The inherited theories of overflow and their challengers. In: Czarniawska & Löfgren (eds.) (2012) Managing overflow in affluent societies, pp.1-12. New York: Routledge.

    Czarniawska, Barbara (2012) News agencies: The places where information permanently overflows. In: Czarniawska & Löfgren (eds.) (2012) Managing overflow in affluent societies, pp.31-51. New York: Routledge.


    Forsemalm, Joakim, Palmås, Karl, Dahlstrand, Alice (2013) Det urbana stationssamhället. Forsknings- och praktikeröversikt. Göteborg: Chalmers University of Technology. Mistra Urban Futures Rapport 2013:3

Page Manager: Agnes Faxén|Last update: 9/25/2017

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