Cultivating cultural differences in asymmetric power relations

  • Ybema S
  • Byun H
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In this article we integrate findings from interviews and ethnographic case studies to explore issues of culture and identity in Japanese--Dutch work relations in two different contexts: Japanese firms in the Netherlands and Dutch firms in Japan. It is suggested that cultural identities do not carry a pre-given meaning that people passively enact, as is sometimes assumed, but become infused with meaning in organizational actors' interpretations that are embedded in specific social contexts. The research contribution this article makes is twofold. First, it illustrates how, in different organizational settings, cultural differences are enacted differently in people's identity talk, underlining the context-dependent and constructed nature of culture and cultural distance in intercultural encounters. Second, it highlights the particular relevance of a power-sensitive understanding of claims of cultural difference by revealing small, but significant differences in organizational actors' cultural identity talk that are intimately related to the specific power asymmetries within our research participants' organizations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Culture
  • Identity
  • Intercultural communication
  • Multinationals
  • Power

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  • Sierk Ybema

  • Hyunghae Byun

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