Englishization in offshore call centers: A postcolonial perspective

Mehdi Boussebaa, Shuchi Sinha, Yiannis Gabriel

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66 Citations (Scopus)
173 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The spread and use of English as the lingua franca of international business (IB)-"corporate Englishization"-has received increasing scholarly attention in recent years but the focus has mostly been on the communication benefits and challenges of using English as a shared language inside multinationals. In this article we examine how English is used externally in the provision of business services and apply a postcolonial perspective to frame our analysis. Drawing on fieldwork in India within the call center units of two outsourcing organizations serving Anglo-American firms, we show how corporate Englishization (1) relies on, and contributes to producing, comprador managerial cadres; (2) serves to construct a transnational intra-linguistic hierarchy of power and privilege; and (3) undercuts its own effectiveness by simultaneously eliminating and maintaining the alterity of the "Other" through processes of mimicry. We thus show how corporate Englishization does not merely overcome or, conversely, worsen transnational communication problems; it also (re-)produces colonial-style power relations between the "Anglosphere" and the "Rest". Our analysis deepens our understanding of corporate Englishization and opens a new avenue for postcolonial research on the role of language in IB. Our analysis also advances the field of postcolonial organization studies and has implications for IB scholarship more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1169
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of International Business Studies
Volume45
Issue number9
Early online date22 May 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2014

Keywords

  • Call centers
  • imperialism
  • India
  • language (language design
  • offshoring; postcolonial theory
  • silent language
  • translation)

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