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Managing Enthusiasm: Between ‘Extremist’ Volunteers and ‘Rational’ Professional Practices in Architectural Conservation

Craggs, R, Geoghegan, H and Neate, HL (2016) Managing Enthusiasm: Between ‘Extremist’ Volunteers and ‘Rational’ Professional Practices in Architectural Conservation. Geoforum, 74. ISSN 0016-7185


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Recent geographical research has considered enthusiasm to be a shared passion and a motivator to action. Through the example of architectural conservation in Britain, and the activities of the Twentieth Century Society in particular, this paper examines the tensions between enthusiasm as a productive and positive affiliation, and enthusiasm as a negative, prohibitive, and at times extremist position. The paper makes three key contributions: firstly, it demonstrates how methodologically it is possible to trace enthusiasm, using ethnographic method to reveal not only what groups say they do, but also what they actually do. Secondly, it argues that enthusiasm is a productive but ambivalent term that creates tensions within organisations and societies where professional and volunteer roles are present. Thirdly, we show that even though enthusiasm has productive capacities, it also requires careful management, and on occasion denial. The tensions between enthusiasm and professionalism that we trace are relevant beyond the realm of architectural conservation and resonate with other groups comprised of volunteers and professionals.

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