‘Koreans are the Israelis of the East’: A postcolonial reading of cultural similarities in cross-cultural management

Irina Lyan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper aims to problematize cross-cultural management (CCM) discourse that naturalizes and depoliticizes similarities as a power-neutral or even power-neutralizing mechanism for creating a positive sense of familiarity, closeness, trust, and intimacy between partners. Employing a postcolonial perspective, the paper deals with the ambiguity and partiality embedded in similarity through Homi Bhabha’s theoretical concept of mimicry–when similarities conceal and therefore tacitly reproduce and reinforce cultural differences, thus enhancing power asymmetries. Through the systematic content analysis of 151 accounts of similarity in Israel-Korean business alliances–asking who is similar to whom (direction), to what extent (degree), and under what circumstances (context)–this paper reveals similarities construction as a sophisticated othering. Rather than being an effective tool for distance management, similarities-as-mimicry, imposed or desired, determine the hierarchical relations between the compared parties through symbolic projection of being or becoming similar from a superior model to its imitation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)507-525
Number of pages19
JournalCulture and Organization
Volume27
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this paper has been generously supported by the Louis Frieberg Center for East-Asian Studies, the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University and St. Antony’s College Committee at Tel Aviv University. I am particularly grateful for the valuable comments of Michal Frenkel, Gili S. Drori, Mike Geppert, Rafael Alcadipani, Lilach Sagiv, Galit Ailon, Alon Levkowitz, three anonymous reviewers, and the participants of "Organizational Theory from the South: Enlightening the North" sub-theme at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium in Edinburgh (2019).

Funding Information:
The research for this paper has been generously supported by the Louis Frieberg Center for East-Asian Studies, the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University and St. Antony?s College Committee at Tel Aviv University. I am particularly grateful for the valuable comments of Michal Frenkel, Gili S. Drori, Mike Geppert, Rafael Alcadipani, Lilach Sagiv, Galit Ailon, Alon Levkowitz, three anonymous reviewers, and the participants of "Organizational Theory from the South: Enlightening the North" sub-theme at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium in Edinburgh (2019).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Cultural similarity
  • content analysis
  • critical cross-cultural management studies
  • mimicry
  • othering
  • postcolonial theory

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