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Colonial imprints and the power of language in organizational members talk

Moulettes, Agneta LU (2009) Critical Management Studies Conference, 2007
Abstract
The aim of the paper is to discuss, with a broadly postcolonial sensibility, the complex role that language has come to play in the contemporary process of globalization. It attempts to show that language, besides being a medium of communication, has come to play a crucial role in companies’ conquest of the global market, on the one hand, and in defending a general idea of an imaginary homogenous nation state, on the other. Because at the same time as English has become ‘the’ world language, one can discern increasing xenophobia and local nationalism that manifest itself in a defensive reaction against an imaginary threat on the national language (cf. Hobsbawm, 2006) and eventually on the nation state as well. For example, along with the... (More)
The aim of the paper is to discuss, with a broadly postcolonial sensibility, the complex role that language has come to play in the contemporary process of globalization. It attempts to show that language, besides being a medium of communication, has come to play a crucial role in companies’ conquest of the global market, on the one hand, and in defending a general idea of an imaginary homogenous nation state, on the other. Because at the same time as English has become ‘the’ world language, one can discern increasing xenophobia and local nationalism that manifest itself in a defensive reaction against an imaginary threat on the national language (cf. Hobsbawm, 2006) and eventually on the nation state as well. For example, along with the growing demand of cultural awareness and sensitivity (see for example, Hofstede, 2001, and Holt & Wiggington, 2002) not least English language skills has come to be seen as imperative for handling supposedly occurring obstacles in cross-national business relations. Concurrently, in the political debate in Sweden (as in countries like Denmark and Australia) voices are being raised to impose language test on immigrants in order to prove them worthy of being adopted as citizens and offered access to the labor market. It is my contention though that the importance ascribed to language skills echoes the legacy of colonialism while it often hides people’s negative emotions about the ‘other’. It needs to be pointed out that my intension is to discuss the use of language from an ideological point of view rather than to oppose its communicative status or engage in a discussion about such use. I will use interview accounts from three different organizations – an international education institution, a multinational and an EU-project - to show how organizational members talk around language and language skills varies depending on their experiences, and also shift while they, during our conversation, are trying to making sense of their stories. My paper attempts to show that while English language skill, among students at the international education institute, is considered as a means to gain access to an international labor market, language serves as a means in the fight for power and control between the US management and the Swedish company members, as well as a gate keeper excluding immigrants from potential work opportunities in the company. Moreover, contrasting this approach to language I attempt to show that the importance paid to language skills appear to be downplayed among EU participants, who despite limited English language skills succeeded in achieving their goal. (Less)
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Contribution to conference
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Critical Management Studies Conference, 2007
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English
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yes
id
7d810302-f7dd-4bc2-9c6e-8df522670451 (old id 1387332)
date added to LUP
2009-04-20 12:27:25
date last changed
2016-04-16 12:00:09
@misc{7d810302-f7dd-4bc2-9c6e-8df522670451,
  abstract     = {The aim of the paper is to discuss, with a broadly postcolonial sensibility, the complex role that language has come to play in the contemporary process of globalization. It attempts to show that language, besides being a medium of communication, has come to play a crucial role in companies’ conquest of the global market, on the one hand, and in defending a general idea of an imaginary homogenous nation state, on the other. Because at the same time as English has become ‘the’ world language, one can discern increasing xenophobia and local nationalism that manifest itself in a defensive reaction against an imaginary threat on the national language (cf. Hobsbawm, 2006) and eventually on the nation state as well. For example, along with the growing demand of cultural awareness and sensitivity (see for example, Hofstede, 2001, and Holt & Wiggington, 2002) not least English language skills has come to be seen as imperative for handling supposedly occurring obstacles in cross-national business relations. Concurrently, in the political debate in Sweden (as in countries like Denmark and Australia) voices are being raised to impose language test on immigrants in order to prove them worthy of being adopted as citizens and offered access to the labor market. It is my contention though that the importance ascribed to language skills echoes the legacy of colonialism while it often hides people’s negative emotions about the ‘other’. It needs to be pointed out that my intension is to discuss the use of language from an ideological point of view rather than to oppose its communicative status or engage in a discussion about such use. I will use interview accounts from three different organizations – an international education institution, a multinational and an EU-project - to show how organizational members talk around language and language skills varies depending on their experiences, and also shift while they, during our conversation, are trying to making sense of their stories. My paper attempts to show that while English language skill, among students at the international education institute, is considered as a means to gain access to an international labor market, language serves as a means in the fight for power and control between the US management and the Swedish company members, as well as a gate keeper excluding immigrants from potential work opportunities in the company. Moreover, contrasting this approach to language I attempt to show that the importance paid to language skills appear to be downplayed among EU participants, who despite limited English language skills succeeded in achieving their goal.},
  author       = {Moulettes, Agneta},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Colonial imprints and the power of language in organizational members talk},
  year         = {2009},
}