Redefining Organizational Cultures: An Interpretative Anthropological Approach to Corporate Narratives


  • Jasmin Mahadevan University of Applied Sciences Kiel



organizational anthropology, ethnography, narratives, intercultural communication


Hardly any management theory nowadays fails to take culture's influence on today's organizations into account. At the very foundation lies the belief that the intercultural boundary can be determined externally—by etic view. In my paper I show how much emic organizational reality differs from etic view. Hereby, I refer to two years of fieldwork that I conducted in a global high-tech company at sites in Germany, Austria and India. I choose this approach to trace culture as an open process of sense-making in practice. Through interpretative anthropological means, I identified several discourses of collective identity that were constructed narratively—often regardless of the presumed etic border of "Germans" vs. "Indians." In summary, this paper makes the following contributions: Firstly, it shows how emic and etic categorizations of the cultural other can differ in a complex environment. Secondly, it looks in depth into the emic categorizations of "the Other" and how they are constructed narratively. Thirdly, it draws conclusions for the field of intercultural communication. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901440


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Author Biography

Jasmin Mahadevan, University of Applied Sciences Kiel

Jasmin MAHADEVAN received her Master's Degree in Languages, Business and Cultural Studies (Diplom-Kulturwirt) with focus on Southeast Asia from the University of Passau and her PhD in Cultural Anthropology and Intercultural Communication from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. She is a professor for International and Intercultural Engineering at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Applied Sciences in Kiel. Jasmin Mahadevan also works as an intercultural trainer and consultant for technical companies.




How to Cite

Mahadevan, J. (2009). Redefining Organizational Cultures: An Interpretative Anthropological Approach to Corporate Narratives. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1).



Researching Special Themes, Phenomena, and Contexts with Qualitative Approaches