Agency Work. How Policemen Develop Connective Repertoires Whilst Working.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Teun MEURS, University of Utrecht, Netherlands, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
In contemporary professional practice, dealing with heterogeneity is part of the job. The ‘pure’ and enclosed conception of professionalism seems no longer sufficient. Therefore professionalism is being reconfigured into forms, such as ‘hybrid professionalism’ (Noordegraaf, 2007; 2011) and ‘connective professionalism’ (Noordegraaf et al., 2014). Hybrid professionalism cuts across the traditional dichotomy of the managerial versus the professional logic and seeks to develop new identities on the edge of different, often conflicting institutional logics. Connective professionalism does not regard professionalism as either ‘enforced’ or ‘fragmented’, but seeks professional repertoires that acknowledge the heterogeneity of occupational domains and the collective nature of professional practices. These reconfigured perspectives are arising, but what about professional action, in-between identities and institutions? Since professional knowledge and identity are no longer treated as fixed, the question is how they are being developed in practice.

Existing studies on the development of hybrid identities and connective repertoires focus on managerial subtypes (such as ‘strategists’) or hybridization within traditional professions (such as ‘healthcare’). This article examines hybrid and connective professionalism within the field of policing, as an exemplary street-level profession. Empirically, we use an intervention approach that includes a responsive evaluation method to dig into the way hybrid policemen find their way. We use the notion of ‘identity work’ (McGivern et al., 2015) to examine how hybrids deal with conflicting institutional logics and work to create a position for themselves. However, this concept falls short in describing how professionals build new repertoires that are aimed at tackling problems. In addition, we coin the term ‘agency work’ to describe the way in which present-day professionals can only work to create connective repertoires whilst working. We study how policemen work on new connections, and we study interventions for facilitating agency work. We draw conclusions for police practices, but also for research agendas.