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The business of the other: representing the non-west in management and media

This thesis explores current facets of the business of the other in western management and business media discourses. It identifies the shaping of these facets through continuities between imperial colonisation and contemporary neocolonialism in ways that mainstream management discourses marginalise or ignore. In establishing marginalisation and neglect, and opening up some of the consequences, the thesis draws on conceptual frameworks from indigenous, feminist, postcolonial, and subaltern studies. In addition, it argues that this ongoing incorporation of colonial concepts and practices into contemporary neocolonialism not only needs to be acknowledged but needs to be challenged by the reconceptualisation of current approaches to the other across a number of business fields. After analysing the process of othering in the mainstream media through a study of the New Zealand press, the thesis focuses its four main lines of inquiry on the fields of business journalism, public relations, diversity management, and intercultural communication. In particular, it looks at aspects of western control involved in the ‘globalisation’ campaigns of the western media; the theoretical formulation of ‘requisite variety’ in public relations; the rhetoric of ‘managing diversity’ in organisations; and the formulation of ‘intercultural communication’ in education. For the first line of inquiry, the thesis analyses how western business journalism texts exercise control over the other by updating Orientalist or Eurocentric ideologies as a discursive underpinning of, and accompaniment to, neocolonial economic expansion. Its second inquiry leads to a critique of the outwardly egalitarian concept of requisite variety in public relations literature. The thesis finds that, although this concept has allowed public relations to take note of the cultural other, it has, in a largely ethnocentric field, done little to shift the balance of power away from dominant western elites. Instead, it shows how the field operates to support those who already hold privileged positions and keep those on the margin marginalised. In the third and fourth lines of inquiry, into discourses of diversity management and intercultural communication, similar consolidations of western neocolonial power are evident. While acknowledging attempts by these fields to incorporate the other into the larger organisational frame, the thesis tracks a systematic tendency to avoid or sideline issues of socio-political power in representations of diversity. It further contends that these benign-looking discourses of diversity align with the neocolonial west’s strategies to retain power in a world where major demographic shifts are reducing western populations to a numerical minority. The thesis also attempts, by introducing my lived experience as an other, to synthesise subjective observations with academic analysis. This integration of lived experience with the legitimacy of theory has been crucial to the project of the thesis as a whole. That project aims to resist sites of control entrenched in western worldviews and, in the face of persistent denials that they exist, to acknowledge racism and other potent discursive and material traces of imperialism.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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