[We’re pleased to welcome author Athinodoros Chronis of California State University, Stanislaus. He recently published an article in Journal of Service Research entitled “The Staging of Contested Servicescapes,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, he reflects on the motivations and influences on this research:]
What motivated you to pursue this research?
For many decades, debates in the United States about the removal of the Confederate flag, monuments, and memorials were both reflective of and constantly feeding major divisions among groups with divergent political views. Noticing similar conflicting perspectives during my fieldwork at Gettysburg National Military Park about the “correct” way in which the painful civil war era should be represented and remembered, inspired and motivated my research into the role that service providers should play in staging contested servicescapes.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
Marketing researchers and other scholars have identified and reflected upon a large number of service environments where oppositional interpretations become the basis for contestation and, as a result, create a problem for service organizers on the way in which the site should be presented to the public. While the above scholarship identifies the presence of contestation and the struggle among opposing parties, it does not provide a focused theorization on the way in which service providers understand and work out a solution to place contestation. To this end, the present research is innovative by highlighting the politicized nature of certain servicescapes and paying attention to the performative practices of frontline employees as they guide customers through the servicescape and as they stage the place and its representation in a particular way in order to avoid contestation. The major impact of this study is the provision of a framework that can be used by the management of contested servicescapes to analyze the contestation terrain and evade marketplace controversies that can be detrimental to a positive customer experience. It also provides three groups of strategic practices that help to accomplish this goal.
What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year
There is a body of literature that is very relevant and influential to my current research. This scholarship is couched in humanist perspectives that highlight the politicized character of certain places and see their construction as a struggle among interest groups. Place is considered a social construction and its emergence is seen as a process through which the material environment is invested with a variety of meanings by different groups or individuals. As a result, place identities can be multiple and the dominant character of place is subject to debate and contestation. Within this unstable terrain, a number of scholars have theorized the production of “official stages” by dominant social forces in order to inculcate particular ideological positions and craft their own version of social reality and place identity (Adams et al. 2001; Ateljevic and Doorne 2002; Bender 1993, 2002; Bosco 2004; Bruce and Creighton 2006; Forest et al. 2004; Frost 2007; Gillen 2014; Goulding and Domic 2009; Hale 2001; Jeong and Santos 2004; Kong and Law 2002; Leitner and Kang 1999; Osborne 1998, 2001; Patil 2011; Sarmento 2009; Stokowski 2002; Tilley 2006; Wight 2016; Worden 1996; Yea 2002; Zhang et al. 2015).