Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of International Business Studies

First Page


Last Page




The complexity of global organizations highlights the importance of members’ ability to span diverse boundaries that may be defined by organization structures, national borders, and/or a variety of cultures associated with organization, nation-based societal and work cultures, industries, and/or professions. Based on ethnographic research in a Japan–US binational firm, the paper describes and analyzes the boundary role performance of the firm's Japanese members. It contributes toward theory on boundary spanning by introducing a “cultural identity negotiation” conceptual framework. We show boundary spanning as a process shaped through the interplay of the contextual issues that make a boundary problematic; an individual's multiple repertoires of cultural knowledge; and the individual boundary spanner's “negotiation”, through interaction with others, of his/her cultural identities – the sense of “who I am” as a cultural being that is fundamental to an individual's self-concept. At the same time, we make transparent the epistemological and methodological foundations of an interpretive ethnographic approach, demonstrating its value for understanding complex organizational processes. Research findings have practical implications for the selection and training of an organization's employees, particularly of persons who may be considered “bicultural”.


This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in the Journal of International Business Studies. The definitive publisher-authenticated version

Noriko Yagi and Jill Kleinberg. "Boundary Work: An Interpretive Ethnographic Perspective on Negotiating and Leveraging Cross-cultural Identity" Journal of International Business Studies 42.5 (2011): 629-653.

is available online at: